"What I'm saying is that once there was a paralytic. And there were people who picked up the edges of the mat where he was lying and carried him through the crowds. In order for him to be healed, someone had to take on that weight. Someone had to haul him to the top of the roof, and lower him straight down through so that he could get to Jesus.
And before the Church is anything else, it has to be that.
People who see. People who carry.
People who will grab onto each other's sharp edges and lift."
In all those moments when I walked away from the Christian communities I'd known, the moment in which my heart felt shattered into an irreparable state, and I couldn't articulate what it was that was so heartbreaking, it was this. It was the fact that I wondered if I had taken the gospels too literally. I wondered if the stories of people carrying others, overlooking their shame and condemnation, and accepting them where they were had been written for another time. Because everywhere I went, I had to clear the hurdles of the expectations of Christian living before people would believe that I possessed a faith worthy of their investment.
When I fell apart, becoming a spiritual paralytic, there was no one to carry me. My sharp edges were a burden too great to bear. As my struggles spiraled into a depressive grief, it was too much to ask for someone to sit in the ashes with me. Instead they visited briefly, peppering me with questions that would assign fault to me so that they would be justified in their lack of helpfulness.
"Have you been doing your quiet time lately?"
"How is your prayer life?"
"Have you been reading your Bible?"
A laundry list of things to do that would supposedly fix me. Another burden that was placed solely on my shoulders. The problem is that when you can't walk, each of those burdens simply becomes another weight pressing you further into the depths of the dirt. Another question, another item to feel inadequate about. Another seed of shame and guilt sown in the depths of my heart.
In those times I wondered what I had done wrong. I wondered if I had read the Bible incorrectly. Here I was expecting Christian community to be filled with the friends of the paralytic and instead all I encountered were the friends of Job. This must have been my fault. I must have made some mistake. My faith must not be as strong as theirs. I must not be right with God, whatever that means.
But once again, as with so many times previously, this "help" only caused me to walk away. I couldn't find any way to heal when I felt like I was being introduced to a new sickness with each encounter. I wanted to put myself in quarantine until I could figure out how to find a place that isn't full of such pervasive condemnation. I could no longer walk and I was desperate for someone to carry me. When such help didn't arrive, I fell and when I fell, I fell away from those communities to which I thought I would always belong.
In my darkest moments, I was looking for those people willing to carry me. Perhaps in many ways I still am. Brokenness makes you realize that faith is a state of shared community rather than one of personal devotion. We are all constantly carrying or needing to be carried. If we want to see healing, we need to take on one another's weight.