I AM Willing
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
—Matthew 8:1-3 (NIV)
Two days after my mom died, my four-year-old started crying. She was trying to fix something, but it wasn’t working. And her frustration soon escalated and consumed her until she was inconsolable, saying, “It’s not the same. We can’t fix it. It will never be what it was supposed to be.” Her little, honest, wild heart was broken, and as much as it was about the broken toy, it was also about the intractable loss of someone she loved deeply. As I stood looking at her, despair broke over my heart. “What is the point? What is the point of my comforting her? And what really is the point when people die, and the whole world is seared with loss?” What difference would it make to love her? It’s all so hard, and then it gets harder. I stood there for a long moment.
Then I got down and held her, kissed her wet cheeks, and wiped her snotty hair. And I cried too. I lay on the floor with her, pondering those questions, and I know that what drew me to her was stronger than the despair. It was grace.
In Matthew 8, soon after Jesus gave the sermon of a lifetime, astonishing crowds with his authority, he was approached by a cast-out man, riddled with a widely feared disease. The man asked to be made clean. He needed to be healed, restored. He had nothing left. “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean,” he said. And Jesus reached out, put his own hand on this broken, diseased, unclean, unsalvageable man, and said, “I am willing.” Jesus was willing to touch this man’s diseased skin, make himself unclean in that touch, put himself in harm’s way just as his own renown was growing. Jesus threw his lot in with this leper by touching him. Jesus was willing to suffer with him. “I am willing.”
Stronger than the despair and the ravages of broken humanity are these words: “I am willing.” God is willing to come down to our level, to hold us, put his hands on us, get dirty, be affected by, and suffer with us. “I AM willing” are the words of the Lord spoken to a world of searing loss. “I AM willing” are the words spoken to all our despairing hearts. Unafraid and unashamed, the living God throws his lot in with us, unhesitatingly unafraid of the dirt, or emotions, or the taint of incurable, wasting, devastating disease — not a single thing could separate God’s love from us. Not even despair. We are not left alone.
The I AM says “I AM willing” and gets on the floor with us.
And maybe that “suffering with” is the beginning of healing.
Prayer: Come close, Lord. You are not afraid to throw your lot in with us. Help us not to be afraid to ask. Even in seasons of grief that may approach despair, open our eyes to see where you are close, willing, and reaching out to touch us. Amen.
Jacqui Mignault copastors at The Road Church in Calgary, Alberta, and is a campus minister at Mount Royal University, Calgary.