Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reflections from the book of John #3: Would you like to get well?

John 5:6  When Jesus saw [the man] and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, "Would you like to get well?"

Some stories seem so obvious, until you slow down and start thinking about the context.  In this story, Jesus goes to Jerusalem to celebrate a holy day and makes a side trip to the Sheep Gate, by the pool of Bethesda, a place where sick and lame people wait.  The theory is if the angel of Lord stirs the water, the first one in the pool gets healed.  It doesn't say that in the passage, but I've heard this description in many, many sermons.  

At any rate, Jesus stops and speaks to a man lying on a mat, and it's clear the guy has been there a long time.  Now, Jesus is God, and he knows everything, but I'm guessing the guy looks pretty awful.  Think about it.  He's been lying on this mat for days, weeks, maybe years.  His muscles are probably wasted away, and he's probably lost weight.  Hygiene has to be an issue.  Shaving.  Washing.  

And Jesus asks him, "Would you like to get well?"

The thing is, the man doesn't say, "Yes."  He doesn't say, "Are you kidding? Of course I want to get well?" 

His mind is so focused on the pool and the need to get in the pool that he doesn't even consider another possibility.  He's stuck.  He can't move.  And getting well is beyond the realm of possibility for this man.   

He's forgotten, or he doesn't know, that Jesus is the Healer. He's forgotten, or he doesn't know, Jesus strengthens legs that can't walk and gives sight to eyes that can't see.  He's forgotten, or he doesn't know, that Jesus casts out demons and restores lepers.  He's forgotten, or he doesn't know, Jesus gives life to the dead.

And so when Jesus asks, "Would you like to get well?", the man answers, "I can't get well.  I can't get well because no one helps me get into the water when it bubbles up.  Someone always gets there before me.  Why even try?"

And then Jesus does the impossible.  He tells the man to stand up, fold up his mat, and walk away.  And instantly, the man is healed.  He gets up and wraps up his things.  For the first time in a long time, the man can move. 

And that's a great story, but it's Jesus' question and the man's response that intrigue me the most, because I think we're a lot like the man.  

Not that we're lying on mats, unable to walk, but many of us are wounded or broken emotionally, broken by circumstances and people and our own messed up choices, and, as a result, we're unable to move forward with our lives.  At least in certain areas.

And Jesus comes along and asks us, "Would you like to get well?" And we say, "We can't."

All my life I've started new things with bursts of energy, powerfully.  And then I get bored.  Or I get frustrated.  Or I set the challenges so high that I can't possibly do as well as I hope to.  And then I finish slowly or I don't finish at all.  Sometimes I avoid finishing because I'm not ready to move on.

I'm stuck.  I'm lying on my mat, dreaming of the day when I can walk, even run, with strength.  But I think to myself, this is just the way I am.  I don't think anything will ever change.  Sometimes I even like this.  I love daydreaming.  And I'm good at researching ways to start things.  Do I really need to follow through?  Sometimes I drift through life passively, and I've gotten flexible at dealing with all of life's ups and downs.  That's a good thing, right?

And yet, dreams and hopes of walking, moving forward with life, haunt me.  And I want to walk.  But I can't. And now Jesus comes to me and asks, "Would you like to get well?" and rather than say "Yes!", I say, "Well, it would be nice, but I've been like this for so long that I don't think anything will change, and it isn't that bad down here on the mat, watching other people run.  I'm able to help them!"

Walking and running take work.  Learning to move requires risk.  I could fall.
Or I can trust Jesus to do the impossible.  To strengthen me.  To equip me.
And yes, I could fall, but I'm not alone.

Sometimes we need healing because someone has hurt us.  We know God wants us to forgive, but what does that look like? And so relationships exist on life support.  Jesus comes and asks, "Would you like to get well?"  And we answer, "Well, sure, that would be nice, but it's just not possible.  My husband's been like this for so many years.  If I forgive him, he'll hurt me again."  

Or we've lost someone, and the pain of that loss is just too great.  And Jesus comes and asks, "Would you like to get well?"  And we answer, "I'm not sure I want the pain to go away.  I might forget my loved one."  And we lie on the mat and mourn.  

Whatever the pain, whatever the wound, whatever the situation, even if it's something that's totally our fault, and we're racked with guilt and shame that keep us lying on the mat, hiding from other people, Jesus wants to heal us so that we can move on with our lives and build healthy relationships.  And Jesus wants to heal the shame and strengthen our hearts.  Jesus wants us to move with him, to follow him, to serve him by serving others.  And we can't do that when we're lying on our mats.  

This year, our Life Group has chosen words that represent our goals for the year.  For many of us, these words represent some healing.

I chose "focus" because it's time for me to get serious and to finish some goals.  It's time to step into the life God has for me.  To stop getting distracted by all the stuff going on around me.  To stop avoiding the tasks God has set before me.  I need healing from fear of failure and fear of the unknown.  

Several women in our group chose "peace" as their word.  Jesus wants to heal their anxiety and their fears.  Others chose "trust."  One woman chose "breathe."  She needs Jesus to enter into the chaos of her life and to strengthen her.  Another chose "roots."  Another chose "stillness."

Whatever it is, we chose those words because of something we long for Jesus to do in our lives.  And before he can do that, we need to him to heal the brokenness.  

And Jesus comes along, and he asks us, "Would you like to get well?"  Too often, we answer, "We can't get well.  It's impossible."

But Jesus is the great healer.  
He heals broken relationships.
He restores hope and life.
He closes wounds.

He strengthens hearts and souls so that we can stand, so that we can pick up our mats, so we can walk, even run.  

1 comment:

Joy said...

Great post Erin. You always inspire me