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  • Gwen Hanna

Mat Carriers


While the article below was written nearly a decade ago, it's relevance for my journey today is amazing! Again I am standing in a place of needing others to carry me to Jesus. Not in the same, raw pain and desperation of then. But as I stand with my toes in the edge of the water, waiting for God to part them and invite me further, I am so grateful I am not standing here alone. My mat carriers have brought me to Jesus once again.

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One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Luke 5:17-20

In his book, Everyone’s Normal Until You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg unravels this story of the paralytic being brought before Jesus. There are plenty of things one could focus on: the attitudes of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, the power of the Lord for healing, the paralytic man who was healed, or the connection between healing and forgiveness. But what Ortberg brought into view more clearly were the faith-filled friends of the man … “when he saw their faith.” This is true, loving, godly community in action! They believed Jesus could heal their friend and tore off the roof to prove it!

On my journey I have been blessed with amazing friends of similar faith. So many have been willing to go to great lengths to show us Jesus and “rip of the roof” to put us before him. May I boast of a few of them (because, of course, the boasting will help us all delight in God’s goodness and give him glory!)?

  • I have friends who came at a moment’s notice to sit with me in a hot, empty parking lot of the sheriff’s department waiting to learn what would become of my husband. They prayed Psalm 46 with me.

  • I have friends who immediately dropped whatever else was important in life to come and be with me, staying overnight, helping with my daughters, making sure I didn’t forget to eat, walking through the fog of those first hours and days.

  • I have family who love me enough to trade their vacation to walk with me in the stress. My pain became theirs, weeping before the one who could heal.

  • I have friends who bonded together in my absence and transformed my bedroom into one fit for a princess! I feel their love each time I enter that room.

  • I have friends who became friends through the crisis, taking my children and loving them tangibly in ways I could not. Letting them know that the world was not all unstable and full of fear, but putting skin on Jesus for them and holding them with his loving arms.

  • I have friends who called each day, listened to the weighty saga, prayed for strength and sturdy feet for the desert path … brought laughter to my heavy heart.

  • I have friends who made meals, took my responsibilities, hugged me when I cried, came to heavy court appointments, brought popsicles for Sunday afternoon treats, arranged massages or enjoyed the experience with me, loved enough to keep asking about how I am doing.

  • I have friends who gave generously, extravagantly, abundantly over the years to sustain life, give my girls a solid Christian education and community, and the “icing” of special gifts for the fun in life.

  • I have friends who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. They gave words that encouraged, affirmed, cajoled, and pressed me into Jesus all the more.

  • I have friends who have spent hours in the labor of prayer, lifting me, my girls, my ministry, my every moment to Jesus. By their faith they have ripped off the roof and set me before him when I had no means to get there on my own.

So many have carried my mat … I am humbled and eternally grateful.

Dear Jesus, thank you for the incredible loving friends you have placed in my life.

Thank you for those who are willing to risk it

and rip off the roof for hurting and weak ones like me.

Thank you for those who believe in you so deeply

that they know to carry others on their mats to your feet.

I am so blessed. Thank you, Lord.


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