Okay, so….this week I went to the hospital to visit a friend who has just begun a cancer journey.  The mere reason that I was at the hospital brought up a lot of memories and it should be noted that this was my first visit to a hospital since Keith’s death.  I did okay.  I expected the atmosphere to get to me, or the smells, or the nurses station, but I was fine with all of that.  So, you know what bothered me?  The elevator.

That’s right, I almost hyperventilated when I got into the elevator.  I don’t have issues with elevators.  I mean, I am a little bit claustrophobic but that wasn’t it.  When I got in that hospital elevator, suddenly I was back at IU hospital heading up to the bone marrow unit in the middle of January, 2011.

As I evaluated this later, I realized that when you are in the midst of a health crisis, the 30-45 seconds that you have in a hospital elevator are oftentimes the only time that you can pause and reflect on all that is going on.  It is there that you process for the first time the diagnosis, the words that you have just heard from the doctor regarding your loved one, or the overwhelming reality of the fight that you are in.

The good news is that the ride was brief, and the doors opened to a building full of people serving other people and providing help and healing.  I could breathe again, and my visit was great.

So, what’s the point?  I think the elevator ride provided a mental trip back to the events that now allow me to connect with so many people.  I am getting to a point here.  Just stay with me.

I have a new, wonderful friend in my new Minister of Music’s wife, Bethany Gaddis.  She wrote the following to me after we had talked about the illness that my friend is facing.  I didn’t ask her permission to reprint, but if she sues me I’ll pay her in Starbuck’s coffee!!

“You know I always think of the story where Jesus healed the paralytic & tells him to take his mat with him when he leaves. Why would he want to take the mat? The place he has been stuck for so long? The painful reminder of how things used to be? My guess is Jesus knew that 1.It would remind Him of what God can do but also 2. It becomes a large part of his testimony & ministry in the future. You carry the mat of experiencing cancer at such a painful closeness that will bring comfort & healing to others you wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to give otherwise. Doesn’t make it easier I imagine, but it gives your pain purpose.”

Such wise words!  We all carry the mats of the pain and experiences that we have been through.  I promise if we look for ways to share them, God will use them.

At my church, we are going through a message series entitled, “What’s Your Story?” Our pastor is speaking each week about people in the Bible who encountered Christ and walked away changed.  He has challenged our people to go to a website and write their own stories of their encounter with Christ.  I am the one who checks these stories every week and brings them to our creative team. We then choose the ones that will be shared in our services.  It’s a powerful series, and I love being immersed every week in stories about God’s transforming power.

This week one of the most compelling stories was from a woman who had been molested as a child.  The story is so powerful and brought me to tears as she described her point of conversion at the time that she was contemplating taking her own life.

I wrote her to ask her if we could share her story in our service, and this was her response:

“I have prayerfully considered this opportunity to allow my story to heard. It wasn’t easy, as I often wished it wasn’t my story. There is still unnecessary shame tied to it. Yet, 1 in 3 people have a similar story. This fact breaks my heart. So, if you want to share it, you have my permission.” 

This brave woman understands that she has been healed, but Jesus has instructed her to take up her mat and carry it with her.  She is doing that, and God is using her story of pain.

As you have been reading this today, I would bet that you have something in your mind, something in your life that God is prompting you to use, to share, to help the community of Christ.  These are pearls that you don’t want to cast before the masses, but I promise you if you yield your mat to Him that He will provide opportunities for you to use your pain for good.  You will know the time to share.

Oh, and next time you are in a hospital elevator, say a prayer for those who are sharing that cubicle with you.  There is no telling what they are facing.

Blessings, my friends!

Matthew 9: 1-8 (NLT)
Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to his own town. Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.”

But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?”

Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

And the man jumped up and went home! Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a man with such great authority.