1 Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. 2 Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. 3 Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. 5 One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”
7 “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
8 Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
9 Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, 10 so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”
11 But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
12 “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.
13 The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. 14 But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”15 Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him.
It is hard living with what I did. In fact, it’s getting so bad that I cannot sleep at night. I feel as if I am a zombie, a paraplegic zombie who can’t even catch a wink of sleep no matter how hard I try.
My nurse gives me all the best pills to help me sleep. She tells me that sleeplessness is common with paralyzed people. She says that I have to learn to get used to it; I have to find a new routine now that I am permanently bound to a motorized wheelchair.
I admit, paralysis is certainly hard to normalize. Even though my paralysis is considered much more tolerable since I am only paralyzed from the waist down, it is still a challenge.
Not only can I not walk, I have no feeling in my legs at all. In fact, I have no feeling from my waist all the way down to my toes. So this means I have to constantly watch myself. If I’m cooking, I have to make sure that I don’t get too close or else a wayward sizzling oil splatter could land on my lap and burn me without me knowing. I have to use all the lotions and ointments my nurse gave me to keep my legs and feet well moisturized less they crack and bleed without my knowledge.
And of course, I have to use my arms, which have developed tremendously in the last nine months, to transfer myself from the wheelchair into bed or from the wheelchair into my sit-down shower. The first time I did it, it was so hard that I practically fell. I didn’t realize how heavy my body was. But after a while, I got better at it and now I lift weights in my spare time to build up my upper body strength just for that purpose.
That is what my doctor and nurse told me about paraplegia. They said it was a life-changing challenge that I had to rise to meet every single day. They said my setbacks and difficulties adjusting were just normal side effects of the paralysis. My nurse always tells me that soon I’ll fall into a good routine, one that will include badly needed sleep.
Yet she nor my doctor really knows why I am troubled. They do not know why I was in that car that, nearly one year ago, had spun out of control and slammed into a tree, severely damaging my spine. They really have no clue how I got into this position.
Of course, I swore I would tell no one because if I did, me and the guys would all go down for what we did. So I swore that I would never rat on the only other survivor of the crash, Walter. He only suffered a few broken bones which have all since healed. He never visited me in the hospital nor did he try to contact me after I got out. I think he knows that if somehow we reunite as friends again, our cover will be blown.
But I am not as strong as Walter. The weight of my guilt is getting very bad for me. At times I feel like I’m about to burst, like I need to just blurt out my sins just so I can find some mental peace.
Ironically, even if I told someone what I did, they probably wouldn’t believe me. I don’t look like a bad guy and neither did Walter or Darryl. I look like a regular adult man you might’ve seen walking down the street. That was why I was able to do what I did for so long without getting caught. It was just tooeasy.
The money was rolling in like water. Walter was the front man. He worked in the mailroom as the Assistant Manager and pretty much handled all of the re-directs for us. Every time we received mail for the fake accounts, Walter would re-direct it to me or Darryl. Nobody noticed what he did, not even to this day. The company trusted Walter so much, they even pooled money together and gave him thousands of dollars on top of a good severance package when he quit after the accident. No one suspected what Walter was doing.
I was even more hidden. I worked in Accounting and used to manage all the company books under the direction of my boss. When he wasn’t looking, I created new books for fake accounts that I set up in the system. I kept those books separate from the company and put a password on them so that no one could open them but me.
Then, when I generated legitimate invoices to send to customers for payment, I would set it up so that when the customer paid, preferably online, an ever-so-small portion of their check would go into the fake accounts that I set up.
I knew that my boss and the company only cared about accounting discrepancies that were more than $20 dollars. So I kept the deposits really low, usually no more than two or three dollars per payment. This way, the amount I stole was so negligible, it would never raise a red flag to my boss or anyone else in the company…and it didn’t.
Darryl was the last piece of the scheme, but he died in the car crash. No one knew what he was doing either. Darryl worked in the legal department and worked closely with finance to make sure that no one was cooking the books in the company. After Walter got him in on the scheme, Darryl started helping us so that we would never get the attention of the company directors or the CEO.
He made all kinds of legal documents to justify the small numerical payment discrepancies, just in case someone asked. He kept everything in a separate folder and even put the documents on company letterhead to make them look real and legitimate. Darryl used to tell me that he was putting his bar license on the line for this, but he said he needed the extra money that we were cutting him. He said that his salary just wasn’t enough to support his growing family, so for an extra two grand a month, Darryl was happy to help cover up our stealing.
I was making three grand per week for four years, on topof my annual salary. I had more money than I ever had in my life. I had a serious girlfriend, a nice condo, a nice car, nice clothes, nice shoes. I paid everybody’s tab at the bars and restaurants. I bought my family expensive gifts for Christmas and birthdays. I even donated thousands of the dollars to the church.
No one suspected that I was stealing from my job. They all thought that I was just successful. Before I started at the company, I had graduated from a good school and went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Accounting. I had landed that job with the company fresh out of school and was quickly promoted and given bonuses and awards for my good work. In all appearances, I just seemed like the nicest, successful, middle-class guy that you could find.
But the truth is, I am a thief – and that truth is weighing on me like a ton of bricks. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t stomach it. I need to sleep, desperately, but I can’t. I can’t quiet my mind and find peace. I don’t feel at ease with myself anymore. I stopped calling my mother and now I let her calls go to voicemail. I stopped going for rolls on the street in the afternoon with my nurse. I stopped playing video games and surfing the internet. If it wasn’t for my nurse, I probably would have stopped eating, too. I am beside myself with misery.
I remember when I donated $24,000 dollars to the church, the reverend couldn’t stop smiling. He kept talking about how he was going to get a new roof for the church and change the carpet and things. He kept thanking me and thanking me. That all happened before the accident.
And I remember how dirty I felt in that moment when the reverend was thanking me. He was looking at me like I was someone good, but I wasn’t. I remember that night, after my girlfriend left my apartment, I even said a prayer to God, asking Him to forgive me for what I did, hoping that He would clean the money I gave to the reverend so it could really be put to good use.
But, of course, that guilty sentiment did not last. I went right back to stealing, right up to the night of the accident. Now, the guilt is back, but it’s 10 times worse than before. I have to do something. I have to get it off me. If this guilt sticks with me, I’ll go crazy. I might even do something to myself that will make my spiritual situation even worse than it is now.
Maybe if I try to remember how I prayed that night after I gave the reverend the money, maybe I’ll feel better. Maybe then my guilt will go away. If I just talk to God, He’ll at least listen to me….
“Jesus, I’m sorry for what I did. I’m sorry for stealing all that money from the company.”
“It wasn’t like I really needed it. You gave me everything I needed to live well. I don’t know, I just got greedy, I guess.”
“…And then it just got easier because no one suspected I was doing it and everybody was happy that I seemed so successful.”
“It’s like I got trapped in it.”
“I’m sorry, Lord.”
“What’s worse is that it cost Darryl his life. He was trying so hard to make enough money for his family as a good father would try to do. And now his family is living without him. That was all my fault.”
“I should have never insisted that he drive that night. We were getting sloppy and I was getting real greedy. Even Walter was hesitant that night. He thought that maybe we should just wait until we get back to work the next day to figure things out, but I was the one who insisted that we break into our company’s mailroom that night.”
“It was my fault.”
“Because all I could think about was getting caught. If that angry letter from the customer about their balance got into the wrong hands at work, then I was going to be in big trouble.”
“That’s all I cared about: myself.”
“God, I should’ve just let it happen. I should’ve just let the company investigate the customer’s complaint and if it led back to me, then it led back to me.”
“At least Darryl would be alive….”
“And this guilt wouldn’t be as bad as it is now.”
“It feels like a ton of bricks, Lord!”
“It’s killing me.”
“And only You know what I did with the money. Of course, I didn’t save any of it – that would’ve made too much sense. The money went out as fast as it came in. I was spending money like crazy, Lord. I was spending it like that because it wasn’t mine. It was the company’s money and the customer’s money, but not mine.”
“Where did I go wrong?”
“How did I get like that?”
“You gave me such a good upbringing. You gave me loving parents who are still married. You gave me loving and supportive siblings. You gave me good health and a happy home. You gave me good education and intelligence. You gave me friends and extended family that adored me.”
“You gave me everything, Lord.”
“Yet I still stole.”
“I’m no worse than those cowards sitting in prison.”
“I’m no worse than them because my heart is just as twisted.”
“If I could fix it God, I would. If I could give back the money, I would. If I could just make it better, I would.”
“Please, Lord, help me.”
“Forgive me of my sins.”
“I can’t take it anymore.”
“This paralysis is too hard. Even though I deserved it… it’s so hard.”
“…But I deserved it. I should’ve died that night. I should’ve died but instead, You allowed me to be only maimed…and for that, I thank You, God.”
“Lord, I just ask that You remove my guilt from my heart. Lift it up from me.”
“I can’t do it myself because it is too heavy.”
“I’ve done too many bad things and no one can help me but You.”
“Father, God, please.”
“Please remove my guilt.”
“…I surrender to You.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve prayed. In fact, I haven’t prayed at all since after the accident. I was in too much shock and pain to pray at that time. But now that I’ve done it, I feel good.
Honestly, I feel really good. My nurse isn’t due in for another hour, but I already feel like going for a roll outside. I usually wait for her but something inside me is telling me to go now.
So I grab my keys, roll out of the front door, close and lock it, then roll down my front ramp that the city built for me. Once I get to the sidewalk, I begin my slow roll around several blocks.
It is a beautiful spring day. It is the kind of day where flowers are in full bloom and trees sway to gentle breezes. It’s the kind of day I used to cherish as a child.
This neighborhood is a good ways from where I grew up. It is a bit more run-down than my old neighborhood, but the people are warm and friendly. There are only a small group of people that I choose to stay away from out of rumored suspicion that they are involved in the illegal drug trade. They live mostly on one block which, coincidentally, attracts the most police attention.
Today, despite the beauty of the late morning hour, it seems the police are already busy. As I roll down the sidewalk, I see several police cars race past me in the direction of that troubling block on the edge of my neighborhood. When my nurse usually comes with me on these strolls, she would always turn me around once she saw any police presence. But since she is not here, I feel intrigued. I want to find out what’s going on.
So I turn my chair into the direction that the police cars are racing. I put my chair on full speed and whiz past single family homes and tree-lined fences. When I finally reach the block at which the police have cornered, I can easily see the reason for the commotion.
There are several men being handcuffed by the police. I see the anger and frustration in their eyes as they try to ignore the humiliation they undoubtedly feel. The police work slowly but deliberately, handcuffing each man, leading him into the police car, then talking into their walkie-talkies in their characteristic police-speak.
I cannot help but to wonder if I would ever get caught. I wonder if I would be arrested just as openly and miserably as these men are. I wonder if I would be able to withstand the harshness of jail or the disappointment from my family from learning of my misdeeds that would undoubtedly spill out during a public criminal trial.
Then suddenly, as I watch the police activity unfold, I feel a strike of pain. I look down and realize that the pain is shooting up from my legs. My legs? My legs! I can feel pain in my legs!
The pain gradually intensifies, prompting me to immediately back away and turn my wheelchair around. The pain radiates down to my toes and up towards my waist. By the time I reach my apartment, it feels like my entire insides are on fire. Quickly, I roll up the ramp to my front door, open it and roll inside.
“What’s going on?” I whisper to myself.
I start to massage my legs, frantically manipulating the flesh here and there but it doesn’t stop the pain. Then, on a whim, I stand up. I put my feet down on the kitchen floor and push myself off the chair.
I am wobbly at first, but I stand. Several tears of confusion and joy suddenly escape from my eyes. I am standing. I am standing!
The doctors told me that it would be impossible for me to regain feeling in my legs since my spine was badly damaged. They said it would take multiple surgeries and years of physical therapy to possibly get to a point where I could walk with a cane. They said that I certainly would never walk on my own.
I pick up my right leg and put my foot down in front of the other. Then I do the same with my left leg. I feel that my legs are a bit weak but sturdy enough to carry me from where I was standing all the way to the kitchen table. I walk to the kitchen table!
Dazed and elated, I laugh loudly and happily.
“I’m walking!” I yell out.
“Thank you, God!!!” I say.
If it is truly a miracle or some temporary glitch in my system, I don’t care. I did not expect this at all. I only expected God to remove my guilt, not to give me the ability to walk.
But even in my surprise and overwhelming happiness, I cannot shake what I was feeling in my heart just moments ago when I was watching those men being arrested. God was telling me something in that scene. I cannot deny that. He was telling me something that I needed to do. He was saying it loud and clear to my heart as if it was the true answer to my prayer.
I stand for a few minutes in the kitchen, then slowly walk around and eventually out of the kitchen. I walk around my apartment, crying, sobbing in delirium and anticipation. I walk into my bedroom, sit down on my bed, then I stand up as if I am testing out new legs.
Then I walk back into the kitchen and towards where the phone is mounted to the wall. Reluctantly, I pull the phone off its mount and carry it to the kitchen table where I slowly sit down on a chair.
“Lord, thank You! Thank You, Lord! Sweet Jesus, thank You for healing me!! Thank You!” I say, wiping continual tears from my eyes.
“Lord, You are truly my God. And I give my life to You! I will do everything You tell me to do!” I cry in euphoric glee.
Suddenly that same voice inside of me speaks again, urging me to do what I need to do. So I hesitate no more. I take a deep breath, then pick up the phone. I dial the number of the local police department which the nurse had taped to the wall in case I needed it.
“Yes, uh,” I begin after the police receptionist answers. “I…I need to report a crime…that I committed. I want to talk to someone about turning myself in.”