Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Walking and Leaping and Praising God

One of my favorite stories in the Acts of the Apostles is that of the healing of the lame man at the temple gate. It is the first miracle recounted in Acts after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The man was a crippled beggar who had lost all hope for healing, so when St Peter and St John stopped before him, he looked only for a handout. Peter’s response is dramatic: “Gold and silver I have not, but what I have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” Immediately the strength returned to his feet and ankles, and he was able to walk.

The man’s response is so genuinely childlike and uninhibited. He didn’t merely lift pious eyes to heaven, giving silent thanks. Rather, he “entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8). It must have been quite a sight! Not only could he walk, but he could leap, and he exercised his newfound vitality to the full, joining it to unrestrained praise of God. (The man was over 40 years old, so he proves to all of us over-40-ers that it’s still possible to leap in jubilant exultation in the Lord, the Giver of all good things.) I’m sure he became a believer in Christ at that very moment, and he was so grateful to the two apostles for being ministers of God’s healing power to him that “he clung to Peter and John” in the temple area.

I wonder if sometimes we lose the spark of joyful praise as we get older, more weary of life’s burdens, our spiritual eyes growing dim and less able to see the wonderful works of God in and around us. Perhaps we should take a look at young children, who bubble over with glee at trifles, who do not focus on the “hard facts of life” or use them as a counterbalance to upsurging joy. Not that we should try to avoid the demands and hardships of life by escaping into some infantile la-la land. But I think that for many of us the balance needs to be adjusted: less anxiety, fear, doubt and discouragement, and more walking, leaping, and praising God.

When the people saw that man who was miraculously healed, “they were filled with wonder and amazement.” I think people today would also be filled with wonder and amazement if we suddenly manifested our joyful gratitude to God for all He has done for us, if we started showing a brighter face and a more cheerful acceptance of whatever life brings. The Gospel is Good News, after all, and it promises us an eternity of jumping for joy in our Savior. If that sounds a little silly, so be it. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously and need to lighten up—in the Lord, that is.

There’s plenty of time for dealing with serious issues (and we must), and there’s also time for deep and silent prayer and meditation. But at least once in a while take a leap of faith and leap for joy in the God who loves you and rejoices over your childlike trust in Him. “The Lord your God…will rejoice over you with gladness; He will renew you in his love; He will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival” (Zephaniah 3:17-18).