“Pick up your mat…”

I first noticed his unique legs when he was only days old. He was my only baby who refused to push back, to brace his knees, to heroically ‘stand’ on my lap in all of his fresh baby strength. Unlike the other boys, he didn’t jump in the jumper. Instead, he let his feet slide under him with the tops of his feet dragging on the floor while his brothers gently pushed. He was slow to sit up, unable to roll, showed no interested in crawling, and refused to bear weight. And he was fine with that.


I revisited his birth story in my mind, sometimes several times a day. Was that moment too long? Did I miss something? Did I hurt him? When the receptionist stated, “There are apparent signs of cerebral palsy…” I went on a research push while, again, re-examining what I might have done to my baby. Then, when the specialist said a confident “No way! He’s fine! He’s just…unique…”. I had nothing left to research and no other angle on the story to consider.

We often commented on what I nice person he was: content, cheerful, affectionate, open. It seemed that if anyone was going to have a challenge, he was ten steps ahead with the heart attitude!

One afternoon, once he had learned to scoot around on his bottom, he was playing with my pilates mat. All I could think of was that line from Jesus with the paralytic, “Pick up your mat and walk!” Pick up your mat baby boy. Stand up. Walk, son….


This weekend for the very first time, Justice crawled. It was stilted and tough and fantastic. He was grinning the whole time; chugging along and trying to make sense of hands and feet. The following day, he pulled himself up and stood. Again, milestone moment. It seems to be that his world is opening up he’s discovering that he’s all kinds of unstoppable.

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But with that, this weekend I’ve been going back to that story, that interaction with Jesus, that miracle. I’ve been wondering why did Jesus tell that man to pick up his mat?

How many years had that man been paralyzed? What filth would that mat have held? Why didn’t Jesus just rebuke it all and declare, “Burn the dam mat! You’re walkin’ now!”?

But He didn’t.

He knew that man. He had provided that mat as a place to lay down.
And that man had been waiting for Jesus. He didn’t know it; he thought the Spirit was in the water of the pool.
For whatever reason, Jesus had made him lay down…on a mat…by unstill water. Paralyzed and ostracized and never in time. A life. A story.
What happened by that pool? What prayers? What shaping of him as a person?

Would he have met Jesus if he hadn’t been waiting there…paralyzed?
Would he have met Jesus if he had been running towards something else,
instead of waiting beside the wrong water?


These preludes in our lives, these ‘years before I met Jesus’, they come with us.
These challenges we are in at whatever waiting place we are at, they’re not necessarily the wrong place.
Whatever weakness, whatever unknown is slowing us from standing and making our legs shake, who are we to say that it should not be a part of the story?  


I think that’s a piece of why Jesus didn’t just say, “Get up and walk!” I think, in that split second of miraculous wonder, Jesus wanted that man to remember that he had always been seen, always known. As that man bent down and saw and smelled that raggedy mat and felt the strength of his legs and the gasp of the crowd, his heart was settling down into green pasture. He realized that legs are flesh, and hearts are eternal, and faith and forgiveness were stilling that water.

He realized that his wasn’t a disability to overcome, there was nothing to rebuke.
His was a whole story, and he was walking towards Jesus. 


2 Responses to ““Pick up your mat…””
  1. Erin S says:

    oh my soul. I am almost weeping. that is so beautiful. I await more about this and love the way you love your boys! love ES

  2. Melanie says:

    absolutely stunning, Dee! Beautiful shots as well! And yay God for the milestones!

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