Thursday, September 29, 2011
when all else has failed
It may be partly that I just finished my 38th year.
I try to think of him sitting there waiting for thirty-eight years and getting more and more disheartened. I imagine disappointment sinking in deeper and deeper and becoming a part of who is is, how he views the world, maybe even shaping the wrinkles on his face and the lines of his body.
I try to imagine living that way, watching others get there first - watching them erupting in joy - and him looking around wondering why he could never get it right. Did he start to blame? Ask 'why me'? Pull back and isolate himself against a wall and just watch? Did he stop trying? Let go of hope? Did he get hard?
I often wonder where were his friends? Why did no one set up and organize a system!? I visualize a church group relay to move him extra fast; a team of strong volunteer guys hustling him towards the water. A sign-up rota for youth group spotters to stay right by the edge and then let out a shout when they saw what they were all waiting for.
I mean, imagine... If we had that kind of guarantee of healing these days it would be mayhem. We'd all be dragging our family members and friends to that place and camping out and rolling out our sleeping bags.
Was he hopeless? Was he bitter? Was he mad?
These four sentences stand out to me:
When Jesus saw him...
Thirty-eight years. He was seen. He was not unnoticed. In fact, the whole system got turned on its head for him. He didn't have to get into the healing water, the healing came to him.
It means so much to me that eventually Jesus himself walked up to him and saw him.
Do you want to become well?
For a long time this question offended me. What a stupid question! He was paralyzed watching his dreams go unrealized. What did Jesus mean did he want to get better?! No, I think I'd rather hang out here by this little jacuzzi I can never get in and stay lame? Areyoukiddingme?
But slowly I realized the value that statement gives away. I remember the first time someone asked me: What do you want? My head spun with all the right answers. All the things I should say and thought were right to say - and they kept, instead, coming back to my heart, my preferences, my desires. What did I want?
It was a revelation to me that that mattered.
I love that Jesus asked that, too.
I have no one to help me...
His answer is a dejected heart-breaker. He didn't have a team. He didn't have friends. There was no squadron of strong buddies like that guy that got lifted down through the roof. He may not even have had family.
And what blows my mind in this story is that the healing he was offered wasn't just for his body to be made well. It was that he was offered someone.
Jesus knew he felt like he had no one. So Jesus came himself.
He healed him by being present. By noticing him. By seeing his sorrow and hurt and pain and asking him about his heart. By not assuming, presuming or making a big deal about himself. (He didn't even know who Jesus was after he was healed.) Jesus turned his attention to a man who had felt lonely and unseen, too slow and too broken, for thirty-eight years.
But it gets better.
And this is actually the sentence that makes me cry:
After this, Jesus found him again...
When someone is found it means they were being looked for. It involves effort and implies that they matter. He mattered. His heart mattered. And it was not just a one-off thing.
Isn't that beautiful?
Our miracle isn't what happens in our bodies.
It's that he comes to us - again and again.