In a religious culture that taught me I was a worm, a wretch, a sinner undeserving of God's love, compassion, and forgiveness, I had no problem believing that, when God looked at me, all God saw was my filth, my brokenness, and my utter irreparability. I was shit, and despite my best efforts, that was never going to change.
The man in the story was so stuck in his own feelings of powerlessness that he couldn't see the opportunity for healing right in front of him. Jesus could have waited around for the waters to be stirred, ordered his disciples to pick up the man, and the same result could have been effected. Instead, he jumps right to the heart of the man's issue and tells him to stand up and walk. No waiting for the waters to magically turn on. No waiting for someone else to come to the rescue. Just get up and be made whole.
Throughout human history, we've had to face the reality that some people enjoy the privilege of certain bodily and sensory experiences from which others are excluded. Some can see while others are blind. Some can hear while others are deaf. Some can speak while others are mute. Some can touch while others either lack the nerve ability to experience the sense of touch or have conditions that make touch a painful experience. In short, some can while others cannot. Yet again, we're faced with an us/them reality.
...we might experience illness and the symptoms that come with it, but we are not our illnesses. We are not depression, anxiety, cancer, tumors, amputated limbs, developmental delays, or any other clinical diagnosis. Yet for many who cope with the reality of illness, mental illness in particular (I'm biased here and I will fully own that), the line between diagnosis and identity is blurred verging on nonexistent. I think there's something wrong with that picture.
Contrary to popular belief, shame isn't as invisible to the people around us as we might like it to be. When it comes to shame, I don't think anyone has the perfect poker face. Try as we might to keep our wounds covered, sometimes the blood seeps through the shirts we wear, illuminating our emotional mortality to the outside world. We think it's invisible, yet we also like to think that we can tell what's going on with someone else. If I can see you, then isn't it safe to assume you can see me?
...Every person is attractive to somebody. You are. I am. Jim Bob over there is, too. Every person is probably ugly to somebody, too. You are. I am. Jim Bob over there is, too. Don’t take it personally.
And, we all need to do ourselves a favor. We need to believe people when they tell us we’re beautiful, handsome, sexy, attractive, hot, or hunkalicious, especially when that someone is somebody that we think is beautiful, handsome, sexy, attractive, hot, or babealicious...
We all have fears, anxieties, insecurities. Most of us are scared to death of being alone. We all get angry, or sad, or confused. Simply put, we're all human, and that shared experience is worth remembering at all times, because when we forget it, that's when we go wrong. That's when we miss each other, stop listening, and resort to hurting each other deeply, violently, or maliciously.
There is a time and a place for gratitude, for thanksgiving. There is also a time and a place for mourning and sorrow, for anger and pain. I'm glad that I get to help make space for the latter, for people to simply feel what they feel without judgment or condemnation. Next time you think of saying the words, "Be grateful," ask yourself, "Would I be grateful right now if I were in their shoes, if I felt their pain?"
...I wish I were good at being alone, at feeling comfortable only in my own presence. But that is when the void of my loneliness, inadequacy, and insecurity is most present, tangible, palpable. I feel more and more like the authentic me, and it's hard to celebrate the goodness there when my mind sees the cracks, the flaws, the shame and the pain.