The Faith of Our Friends | #23

There is a story in the Christian scriptures that I love. In the second chapter of Mark, we are told that a particular man was paralyzed, and his friends were convinced that the wandering rabbi Jesus could heal him.

So they loaded him up on a stretcher and went to the house Jesus was staying at, hoping to get an audience with Jesus, so he could heal their friend. But they were not the only people with that idea – there was a huge crowd of people there to see Jesus, and the line was long. But these friends, these faithful, dear friends, were so committed that they climbed on the roof of the house, then they pulled the stretcher up there with them, and then cut a hole in the roof and lowered him down in front of Jesus, who then heals the man.

But the story doesn’t just stop there – it goes on to say that Jesus saw the faith of the man’s friends and forgave his sins. Not the man’s faith – we know nothing about the man. We don’t know if he was a good man or a bad man, a father or a murderer, if he was paralyzed from birth or it was the result of an act of heroism. None of that is important to the story. And apparently, none of that matters to Jesus.

No, Jesus forgives the man’s transgressions because of the faith of his friends. The faith of his friends was enough, you see, to overcome it all, even when the man’s own faith and abilities were not enough.

Seamus Haney has a poem called Miracle (found in his book Human Chain) where he references this story and posits that the real miracle that happened that day was the man’s friends who risked much out of their love for him to show him kindness. Haney had recently had a stroke, and in an interview he said it wasn’t until he had been carried by four men that he realized how important they were to the process.

I am, professionally, an organizer. I once mentioned that to someone and she asked what I would charge to help with her closets. Actually, the full title is “Community Organizer”. I help communities take care of themselves and each other. I do this because I believe in people, but more than that, I believe in communities. I believe that a community contains all of the things we need to live a good life.

For a lot of us, life is pretty dark right now. The combination of watching democracy collapse in the US, a global pandemic, virtual school, and social isolation is taking its toll on many of us.

A fellow organizer, who is also really high-functioning, described this time as her 6-month slump. Many of us who are used to dealing with crisis were actually thriving in the early stages of the pandemic, but now are worn down and listless.

And right now, for a lot of us, it is harder and harder to believe in that better world that we believe is possible. The ideal we hold in our hearts of The World as it Should Be seems, at times, so far away as to be unattainable.

But if you buy into the idea of community, a lot of that changes. Because while my belief, or ability to sustain my belief, in that better world may slip or slide on any given day, if you believe for me, it doesn’t matter. And on the days when you just cannot believe, I will believe for you.  Because as Haney taught us, the miracle doesn’t happen because of some cosmic bequest – it happens because we showed up for each other.