Carry My Mat
By Amy GordonShare
Think for a minute of the story in the Bible where the lame man’s friends wanted so desperately for their friend to see Jesus that they picked up his mat and carried him to the place where Jesus was. It is recounted in the Gospels and tells of a man who was born lame and blind, so that he could neither walk nor see his way to Jesus on his own. For many years this man lived this way, begging, hoping, and praying that some thing or some one would come along and rescue him, change his situation, and save him from his prison. For the most part passersby pretended not to notice him as he tapped a small stick on the hard ground, begging for alms, for some bread, for anything…even companionship or a simple conversation. They knew he was there, because he was always there.
Occasionally someone would throw a small coin his way, or drop him a piece of bread, but few seemed to really care who this man was or what he was about. Everyone had heard the rumors about why he was born lame, about his family, and about how he had spent his life begging for help from others. Then one day, it happens. Four guys come alongside him and pick up his mat. They carry him to the Teacher, the Healer, the One whom he has heard people talk about as they have rudely walked past him in their rush to enter the tabernacle. And the rest, as they say, is history.
What about those four guys? Four guys who seemed to care a little bit more than the others. In fact, they even considered this lame man to be their friend and they seemed committed to seeing him through his struggles. They knew what their friend needed and that they could be the ones to provide for his need. Their lame friend needed Jesus. The Healer’s fame had spread throughout their town and there was no doubt that the lame man had also heard the rumblings and knew too, in his heart, that if he could only get to this man Jesus…if he could just touch him then maybe, just maybe, everything would be alright. These four guys - his friends - carried his mat and they all saw Jesus.
This is truly an incredible story. As women who are always taking care of others, so often we are one (or two!) of the four friends who carry other people to Jesus. There have been countless times when we have willingly picked up the corner of someone else’s mat and taken that person to the Healer. Being in ministry means that we, at times, sacrifice our own needs for the spiritual needs of others. We focus our everyday life on the workings of the church either as an individual ministry or as an entire church community. We eat, sleep, and breathe the pouring out of spiritual life into the hearts of those God has entrusted to us. And that in turn blesses us and provides us with life. Those four friends who carried the lame man to Jesus must have been overflowing with joy as they watched him take a step for the very first time. They were experiencing firsthand the blessing of carrying someone to Jesus. Because they were obedient, their friend could see Jesus and could walk again. That is pretty incredible!
There are also times in our lives when we have to let others carry our mat to Jesus. This has never been more evident to me than it has been in the last couple of years. Three months after the birth of our fourth child, I became sick with an invasive Group A strep infection that entered my body on my chin and within 24 hours had me hospitalized. The infection had spread so fast and furious around my neck and chest that the doctors began fearing permanent brain damage, physical disfiguration, or at worst, death. It was an incredibly scary time for me. I was in a lot of pain and felt very alone, very afraid, and very confused. Yet, in spite of it all, I had peace; deep rooted peace that can only come from Jesus Christ. I truly believe that Jesus met me that first night in the hospital as I lay on my stretcher. I have never been as keenly aware of His presence as I was throughout those days. He promised to carry me through this. He reminded me that He loves me so much that He would never leave me. And most of all, He told me that He also loves my husband and my children and that He had their best interests at heart. Through all the details of this crisis, our church family supported us, loved us, and basically carried us to Jesus. This was their time to carry us, and we could not have done it without them.
There was the physical support provided to each member of my family. My older boys were kept on routine with school and hockey practices and play dates. My younger boys were loved and cared for daily by a dedicated group of other moms and their kids. Even after I came home from the hospital, my younger kids had play dates almost every day. My baby became very attached to his Nana. We had meals provided every night for months and had people cleaning the house, doing grocery shopping, laundry, and putting my kids to bed. Our church leadership was especially generous in giving my husband extra time off so that he could be with me in the hospital and, after that, letting him be with our boys whenever they needed their Daddy.
Then there was the spiritual support. I will never know this side of heaven what the prayers of His people did for me or what would have happened had the faithful not been on their knees, individually and collectively, laying my life before the Throne of Grace, petitioning the King of Kings, asking God to move this mountain for me. But I do know that they did all that. People were awoken from sleep to pray for me. Our Ladies Group spent a meeting beating on the doors of heaven for me. My missionary brother and sister-in-law had their whole team praying for me even as they served in the war-torn villages of Darfur, Sudan. Every church we were associated with through family and friends across North America prayed diligently and expectantly for my healthy recovery.
This might sound all well and good, but it certainly wasn’t easy. It was incredibly humbling to let our church family and friends carry us - carry me - this way. I was not used to it. I felt extremely uncomfortable, but doesn’t God operate that way? He pushes us out of our comfort zone so that we can gain a better perspective of Him and His goodness to us. God was placing me in a position to receive the blessings of His people. By allowing others to serve me and my family, I was allowing them to experience the blessing of carrying a friend to Jesus.
God was also dealing with my pride. In so many ways, God was teaching me what it feels like to let others carry my mat. I most certainly wasn’t strong enough to carry it myself, but I also most certainly needed to see Jesus. I needed Him to heal me, to strengthen me, and to make me whole. So I humbled myself and agreed in my spirit to let the Holy Spirit have His way. I resolved to not be embarrassed that other people had to clean my bathrooms, do my laundry, or parent my children. I needed to let others carry me and my family through this time.
I am in awe of the great God we serve. Although the journey has been long, I praise God that I am physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually whole. Every fear that the doctors had for my health was quietly taken away. I cannot thank God enough for letting me go through this because I would have missed out on discovering the blessing of letting others carry my mat for me. I would have missed out on the (ongoing!) lessons of humility and grace. But most of all, I would have missed out on seeing Jesus, the Author and Sustainer of my life.