AN OUTSIDER'S STORY
As far as I could remember, my legs had always been extremely weak. While many of my peers were running around, I had to be in bed most of the times. I needed help to move around. I often felt that I was a heavy burden to my parents. Indeed, I felt that I was an unnecessary burden to them. They were not rich to start with and certainly did not need a useless child like me to increase their load. But they were patient with me. Unlike many other parents with defective children, they allowed me to grow up into adulthood Fortunately, there were relatives around that continued to care for me when my parents passed away. My only wish in life was to be independent.
There was a church near where we lived. Every morning my relatives would come and carry me to the doorsteps of the church before they went to work. People going in and out of the church usually would give me something to eat - a brown paper bag, some leftovers, even the occasional dessert. I had been there so long that almost everyone there knew me.
I still remembered that special day. It was close to my fortieth birthday. My relatives took me to the church entrance in the morning as usual. I was hungry. People were coming and going but I did not get much from them. It was around three in the afternoon. I was on the lookout for any familiar faces. Then came several men. I recognized them because they had been coming to the church to pray every afternoon. As part of my routine, I asked them for a handout.
This man, whose name I found out later to be Mr. Peter, looked at me straight in the eye and said rather loudly, "Look here." I looked up, expecting to get something from them.
" I don't have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!"
" What? Walk? Who, me?" I whispered, thinking that he was just fooling me.
Before I knew it, he grabbed me by the right hand and pulled me up. I was not sure whether to cooperate with him or not. I kept looking at my legs and found them firming up - first the feet, then the ankles and, before long, my legs were bearing my own weight. I looked around, wondering who was supporting me. But there was none! I looked at my legs again and again, not knowing what to say. I felt I was in a dream. Next thing I knew, I was walking! I walked over to Mr. Peter to thank him and he signaled to me to walk with him into the church.
" Into the church? Oh, no." I uttered. I had never been inside the church. I was never allowed inside because of my birth defect. I had always been an outsider. Of course, I had always wanted to find out what it was like inside the building.
" Come on in!" shouted Mr. John, who was accompanying Mr. Peter.
I hesitated for a moment and went into the church building with them. My amazing legs would not stop. I was walking back and forth. My heart was filled with joy that I found myself dancing and praising God.
I must confess that more than once before I had complained in my heart about my birth defect. I was convinced that God somehow had made me substandard. At that moment, I was so thrilled that I did not even think of saying sorry to God. It was just praise and celebration!
Everybody there recognized me as the beggar at the church entrance. They knew that I had never walked before. When they saw what had happened, they rubbed their eyes, scarcely believing what they were witnessing.
I managed to find the two men, Mr. Peter and Mr. John and gave them a big hug. All the people ran up to where we were at the church entrance to see it for themselves.
Then Mr. Peter started talking to the crowd. Frankly, I was too excited to remember what he said. He mentioned something about Jesus who died and later rose again. What I do remember well was that Mr. Peter kept giving the credit to Jesus.
" Faith in Jesus* name put this man, whose condition you know so well, on his feet- yes, faith and nothing but faith got this man healed before your eyes.* With similar words like these, he urged them to put their faith in Jesus.
With all these commotion, soon came the church guards together with some scholars. They were obviously very annoyed with the noise and the crowd, which had grown to thousands. I think they were jealous of the attention given to my two benefactors. I did not want any trouble and so I had to hide behind Mr. Peter. He was not the least intimidated. He repeated his message to the authority. They were not amused! They arrested both of them and threw them into jail. I really felt bad for them but there was nothing I could do to help.
That night, I went home by myself, obviously grateful that I did not have to be carried around anymore. But my heart was heavy. I was quite worried about the two prisoners.
What I heard the next day was that they were eventually released but only after being beaten severely. The strangest thing was that this time they were the ones openly praising God as I had done the day before.
Later, there was this Dr. Luke who came to get my permission because he wanted to publish my story. He was a good friend of Mr. Peter who had given him a sketch of what happened. I gladly consented with the understanding that I would remained anonymous. As a matter of fact, I provided him with more details of that day's event.
Dr. Luke was particularly impressed when I told him about my first experience of going into the church after being an outsider for almost forty years. He confided to me that he had just finished writing a detailed record of this man called Jesus, who made friends with many " Outsiders " - women, common laborers (shepherds), the racially different (the Samaritans), the poor.
His final comment was that all of us who had found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance, now might find the doors wide open, welcomed by God in Jesus.
That was good news for me. That summed up my story well.
(Note: This is a narrative based on chapter 3 of Acts in The Message by Eugene Peterson.)