“On another sabbath [Jesus] entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered….he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there….After looking around at the crowd, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. –St. John 6
I, too, have a “withered hand.” My hidden affliction comes with me into this sacred place where your almighty Presence stands before my weakness; where you are waiting to become my Hope. I have silently observed your divinity as woebegone humanity grabs for deliverance from their suffering. I’ve lingered at the edges of life, hiding my infirmity while longing for your word, your touch, your gaze to fix on me.
My withered self has narrated my existence with waning courage, whispering that it’s just a hand, a slight barrier between acceptance and rejection. I have lived until this moment: self-confident, self-reliant–hiding behind declarations of my capability and strength, parroting confidence. I stand in the synagogue alongside other worshippers waiting for a word from you. I reassure myself that they do not know me, they don’t know the extent of my shame. I’m very good at hiding.
My inner battle and private fears, drive me to hide in the crowd rather than to grab for your attention. I’m just another broken display of the miseries of humanity trying to stay out of the way. But today I choose to be here, today I’ve come to listen to your Word, Jesus. As you look about, your eye’s fix on me! It seems as though you see behind my mask, right into my doubt! In an instant a fissure in my soul gives way between my affliction and your gaze. You see me, I feel your eyes piercing through the folded cloth that hides my weakness, and it seems you don’t regard it as the hindrance at all. Is this strength I’m feeling?
“Come and stand here.” You say to me.
I respond to your request, but I carry with me my greatest distress at not being accepted, of being chastised. I stretch out my withered hand from my prison of self-sufficiency toward your Divinity, and I am transformed! Yes, my withered hand was restored, but I was also released from my self-protection and doubt, my pride and my fear. Suddenly, in that moment, I understood! I know that you are the Living God draped in flesh so that my broken flesh can be transformed into your divine image. At once you know my brokenness and you take it into yourself and render me whole. How is this? How can I be a favored one?
Friend, you may feel as that man felt, I know I do sometimes. What is your withered hand? Yes, it may be physical but, more so it’s those hidden impairments in our soul that keeps us withered in spirit. Resentments, jealousy, envy, bitterness, pride, anger, fear; Christ came to heal all wounds and his eyes are always fixed on us waiting for us to respond to his offer of healing.
Do you find yourself standing at the margins of grace stunted by the belief that Jesus can’t possibly realize how broken you are? Can you see him reaching past that brokenness into your heart, beckoning you to trust him? It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it? Just like the man, we are offered a choice. When our spirit moves closer to the fullness of Christ, he is faithful to fill us with courage to believe we can be healed and accept his healing power.
The man entered the synagogue that day full of himself. He left the synagogue emptied of himself–all that hindered him. He stretched his withered hand toward You, he drew it back restored and whole. You are standing before us now waiting for us to reach for you, grant us courage.
Healing Savior, I reach for you believing that you hear every cry, no matter how silent. You know my inner longings for holiness and wholeness, grant me the courage to expose my whole mind, body and soul to your healing hand. Reach into my innermost fears and my over-weaning pride. Restore me to what you believe about me.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.