The Sunken Place

Hey y’all! Okay so Lent isn’t exactly going the way I expected, and that’s fine. I’m not quite sure what I expected, but I’m positive it didn’t look like this. I’m not saying it’s going bad. I’m simply saying it’s not what I expected. I believe Lent is working on me MUCH MORE than I am working through it. I’m not sure who is doing more work here, but we’re working anyhow.

Now I finally saw “Get Out” and it was AWESOME SAUCE! That means a lot coming from me, because your girl doesn’t do scary movies….at all…not even a little bit. However for review purposes, and for the sake of the culture, I went (with a friend of course because I don’t do scary movies)! So because I keep doing this expectations thing, I had a few. I expected to see a heightened awareness of cultural relevance to how society views the black community. I did. I expected to see the problematic issues of interracial dating being explored. I did. I expected to see how deception and vulnerability intertwined into the demise of a person. I did. What I didn’t expect was the conviction of unpacking the sunken place .

John 5:  1 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made whole ?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

Jesus today! This paralyzed man had been there 38 years inches away from what he thought would be his healing, and still hadn’t received it. Like the character Chris from the movie, and like myself, something had paralyzed him, and his location was now the sunken place. For Chris, it was the guilt of not aiding his dying mother as a child, even though he had no awareness or power to do anything. He never really wanted to unpack it because of the pain that it seemed to cause, and when he was coerced into dealing with his childhood vulnerability it was immediately exploited. He took on that guilt anyway, and it put him in the sunken place. For me here recently it seems to have been on every side you can think of. Between the loss of some of loved ones, some of the challenges of my job, my rigorous journey in the matriculation of my academic career, my family relationships, my weird love-life (or lack thereof), attempted assaults, and my refusal to unpack and get help that I need, I’ve been living and operating in the sunken place. I’ve been paralyzed by all kinds of foolishness, including fear of rejection, fear of disappointment, personal disappointment, bad decisions, just a hot mess. There are some proactive steps that I could’ve been taking to being made whole, but I was living in the sunken place.

One of my best friends tried to talk to me last night, and it was a perfect opportunity to take some steps towards healing and wholeness. They’re hip to most of the trials I’ve gone through with my school matriculation, except for the recent stuff. After all of the struggle to get out and pay for undergrad, and being screwed by FAFSA and the likes, I thought I had hit some level ground. I was sadly mistaken and devastated to find out that this fight was not done, and was too prideful to solicit help, which didn’t do anything but put me deeper in the sunken place. I thought I’d be able to fix these financial woes by the deadlines for this semester, and wasn’t able to do so, and didn’t tell anyone, including my best friend. Others find out, but my best friend doesn’t know, and that sucks. So I have to WAIT to get a place, that frankly everyone is POSITIVE I’m supposed to be in, except for me. It’s affected both my job, my ministry, and my integrity, and my best friend knows nothing about it. Even if they couldn’t solve it, I would’ve at least let someone in. No matter their reaction, it would’ve been a burden lifted off of my shoulders and they’d have the choice to love and support close-up or at a distance, but I didn’t give them or me that chance because I felt stuck in the sunken place. It’s like I belonged there, as though I didn’t deserve anything else.  The sunken place is not a stranger to anyone. All of humanity runs the risks of being stuck in the sunken place. Life has a way of paralyzing us physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Before we know it 38 years can go by, and we can find ourselves in position where our residential address has become the sunken place. However I do so believe, that even if it is in this mere writing of a blog alone, the presence of the Lord is in this place. It’s in this Lenten season.

Jesus is here asking me, “Valerie, do you want to be made whole?” My answer is yes! I’m not going to be trapped in the sunken place anymore! Some scholars and theologians argue that it was just a spring pool that stirred during a certain time of the year. Others believe that there was angel stirring the pool. Whichever side you stand on, I believe we all agree that it served as a healing agent. But THIS healing and journey to wholeness was not going to be like everyone else’s.

The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Kevin Smalls preached this text my junior year of undergrad at Howard University. It was one of the memorable sermons for me, because as a psychology major I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the mind. The mind is what gives the task to our motor functions to work. It’s how every piece of who we are is controlled. He argued that when Jesus spoke to the man, he did not speak to his legs. Rather, Jesus spoke to his mind. The mind is what gives the instructions to the legs. That’s good news for us! The healing and journey toward wholeness happened because of a shift in his mind. He received instructions to pick up his mat, and LEAVE the sunken place. The only way out of this paralyzed position of residing in the sunken place, was the change his mind and leave to return no more. God we thank you for the ability to change our mind!

I’m not sure how this Lenten season is going for you, but in all of the work you’re doing for Lent, I’m praying Lent is working on you to. And as Lent works on us, know that no matter how deep you get in the sunken place, your healing doesn’t have to be like everyone else’s, Jesus can and will speak to your mind, others deserve a chance to see you in the sunken place, and when he does, you don’t have to stay there anymore. Come, let us be on our way. Jerusalem is ahead and we have a work to do.

Peace & blessings!

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