Sunday, December 2, 2007

Step by Step

When I was a little kid we had to do a “how to” presentation. I think I did mine on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As an adult that seems so simple, but I recall the order of the steps being very important to me.

This past week I’ve been helping a friend refinish her bathroom and again I was reminded the importance of the order of the steps. We had about 10 projects going on and I had to sit down and see which order things must be done in and how much drying time was required between each.

In both cooking (if you can call making peanut butter and jelly cooking) and home repair the order of the steps is important. This morning as I was reading one of the gospel stories, I was reminded that the order of the steps is important in our spiritual life as well.

I read Luke 13:10-17 – the story of the woman who was bent over for 18 years and was healed by Jesus on the Sabbath. As I read, something neat happened. Sentences I would usually have simple viewed as “scene setting” or chronology spoke to me. There was a neat ordering of things, a certain step by step process to the healing.

Step 1: Put yourself in the presence of God. The passage begins simple enough, setting the scene: “Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years;” The phrase “in one of the synagogues” stood out to me. Jesus was there. The woman was there. She was in pursuit of God. She had put herself in Christ’s presence. That is step one. We cannot start anywhere else.

Step 2: Admit you cannot fix the problem on your own. A small little descriptive phrase spoke volumes to me: “she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.” She could not straighten herself. She could not. And she knew this. She was aware of her limitations. To be aware of our limitations is not weakness. It is humility. And it is a very important second step.

Step 3: Believe. “And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.’” How strange those words must have sounded. Infirmed for 18 years and now you say I’m free? I’m not sure I would have believed him. Perhaps I would have walked off embarrassed or frustrated, convinced he knew nothing of my infirmity and wasn’t able to help me. But she believed. A very important step.

Step 4: Receive. “And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight.” Simple. We aren’t told how the healing felt. Did it hurt? Did she hear the creaking and crackling of each bone as her body straightened? Those are perhaps questions I would have asked. “Lord, is this gonna hurt?” She didn’t delay. She received. She allowed the Lord to lay his hands on her and to heal. Another essential step.

Step 5: Give thanks. The action ends with this: “and she praised God.” Remember step 2? This healing was something beyond her doing. She was humble enough to know she couldn’t do this on her own. Now, from that humility flows her praise. She was grateful to the Lord who did for her what she could not. A final step.

I am certainly not suggesting some “magical” formula for healing or change in our lives. “If you follow these 5 simple steps you’ll have the perfect life/health/job/house/career/spouse/future you desire!” That reeks of infomercial.

But today, if you find yourself in need of some grace, some help, or some healing - follow the example of the woman in Luke 13. Place yourself in God’s presence. Admit your limitations, your need for help. Believe. Receive. And praise Him for whatever He does in you.

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