Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'
-- Mark 2:3-5
The summer before my fourth grade year, my daddy was transferred to Paragould. Paragould is a wonderful small town in northeast Arkansas. It's a great place to grow up. But back then, there weren't a lot of people moving either in or out of town, and being the new girl in my class was a bit daunting. Thankfully, as God would have it, there was a girl just my age who lived two houses down the street, Gina White, and not only had her very best friend in all the world moved away that same summer, she also went to First Presbyterian Church, where I went. God was good to me. I instantly had a new best friend who introduced me to all of the other girls in my age group. Those friends are still some of my closest friends, who are there for me when I need support and a listening ear.
The Rev. Rebecca Spooner, who is the director of the Wellspring Renewal Center in Little Rock, led a theological discussion I took part in last month, centered on the scriptural text cited above. She asked us all, "Who's carrying your mat?" When you need help, and you can't do it alone, who is there to carry you and get you the help you need? And then she asked a second question, "Who's mat are you carrying?" Who do you walk along with, ready to be there for them if they need a friend?
When my daughters were pre-schoolers, my two best friends in the community where we lived moved out of town at almost the same time. I was a busy young mother and didn't really have much time to spend with friends, so I just tooled right along. And then my daddy died, and I felt so alone, I thought my heart would rupture. My husband, Ted, did his very best to carry my mat, but he could only carry one corner. I needed my girlfriends to understand what a daughter feels like when she loses her daddy. My childhood girlfriends seemed too far away for me to lean on them -- this was before Facebook and cell phones. I nearly fell.
When we moved to Fayetteville, our daughters started seventh and ninth grade at Woodland Junior High. The younger daughter flourished, but her introverted sister was overwhelmed by the change. I give thanks to God for her friend, Jamie Gilbreath, who was the friend to her that Gina had been to me.
Sometimes, it's easy to forget the value of friendship. This Thanksgiving weekend remember your friends -- those who are your friends today and those who were friends during a different time of your life. They were and are your mat-carriers, along with family members. And you are, and were, the one they could turn to when they need or needed someone.
I give thanks for Kathy, Barbara, Lisa, Beverly, Carren, Gina, Lee, Sandy, Nan, Lanie, Sandy, Melissa, Susan, Athina, Susan, Cindy, Sharon and so many other friends who have been there to carry my mat. I hope all who are reading this column have been as blessed as I have with friends and family who love you. Give thanks.
NAN Religion on 11/25/2017
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