By Stan Friedman
KNOXVILLE, TN (July 19, 2012) – Thousands of students got up from their seats and walked to the cross lit by a single light in the otherwise darkened Thompson-Boling Arena, where they picked up a white cloth that symbolized their surrender to Christ’s love on Wednesday night.
They took the cloths with them as they walked up the steps and out into the hallways to partake of communion, and write their hurts, habits, and hang-ups on newsprint stretched across tables. What they wrote ranged from teens promising to respect their parents, to quit drugs or sexual immorality, and pleas for God’s help with suicidal thoughts.
Friends – longtime and newly formed – prayed, hugged, laughed, wept, and were silent with one another.
They were responding to the call by the evening’s preacher, North Park University Chaplain Judy Peterson, who echoed Jesus’s words to the lame man at the pool of Bethsaida, who had been paralyzed for 38 years. The man had hoped to be the first into the waters when they stirred because they were thought to have healing powers.
Jesus came along, however, and told the man to take up his mat and walk, which he immediately did. But Jesus issued the command only after he asked the man, “Do you want to be well?”
It was a simple enough question that would seem to have an obvious answer – as obvious as it was to the person who took up his mat. But Peterson told the 5,000 worshipers that many of them have preferred to be sick.
Too often, she said, people structure their lives in order to protect their sin, to which they have become accustomed, familiar with, and even depend upon. “It’s a known place even if it is an unwell place.”
Peterson added that fear of giving up the unwell parts of their lives is “paralyzing some of you.” They have given into “that dirty little lie” that healing is impossible.
Peterson told the students they cannot make excuses and say their unwell condition has roots that have gone to deep. She reminded them that the man at the pool had been paralyzed for longer than the students have been alive.
She also told of her experiences of drinking and promiscuity before she gave her life to Christ and trusted his command. “So I took up my mat and walked, and I’m not going back.”
Surrender requires initial and daily decisions to obey Jesus’s command to take up their mat and walk. She noted that Jesus didn’t heal the man – or anyone else – unless they wanted to be healed.
“You have to take up your mat and walk,” Peterson said. “You’re not an exception to this rule.”
Attending CHIC is not a cure, Peterson said. “As wonderful as CHIC is, CHIC won’t change your life forever unless you change your life forever.”
And Jesus will be walking alongside and empowering them the entire way.