So, I’m paralyzed. Been this way since the car accident. I can’t walk. I can’t feed myself, bathe myself, even brush my own teeth. And this Man comes to me and asks, “Do you want to get well?”
And with a big, pearly white-toothed smile I say, “No. I’m good. I like people waiting on me hand and foot. I like using my handicap as a crutch. I like not having to do anything, prove anything, take responsibility for anything. I like people coddling me, making excuses for me, doing everything under the sun for me.
Of course, this ridiculous scenario is just fiction. I’m physically healthy. I can clean my own house, pull weeds from my flowerbeds, even walk around the block a few times.
But the man Jesus approached at the healing pool had been an invalid for thirty-eight years, and Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)
Why would Jesus ask such a question? Why would He even think that the man wouldn’t want to be healed? He was at the healing pool, wasn’t he?
As a snotty-nosed kid, and seeing the world through my over-sized rose-tinted glasses, I often wondered about that scripture. Then, when I grew up and those glasses got punched off my face, I saw the world and the people in it differently. I even saw myself differently.
Reality stinks. It rattles our brain and makes us see things about ourselves and others that we’d rather not. Don’t open my eyes, and I won’t have to see how many people use their long-time physical and emotional handicaps to bully and control others. Stick in a pair of earplugs and I won’t have to hear their never-ending moans and groans.
It’s funny how conversations often become a contest of who had the most surgeries or take the most pills or has the worst ailments or suffers the most pain.
Why do people do that?
As kids growing up, my brother and I had rheumatic fever, but Kenny’s was more severe than mine. He was sickly all the time, in and out of the hospital and pumped full of penicillin at the least sign of a cold. He cried a lot. Was coddled and babied a lot. And I felt ignored a lot.
Then, when I was in the third grade, I got deathly sick every day after lunch and laid my head on my desk trying not to throw up all over the floor. Finally, mom and daddy took me to the doctor to discover I had walking pneumonia.
Finally! I was one up on my brother and rubbed it in his face, boasting that I was the sickest, now, and it’s my turn to get all the attention!
But, Kenny wasn’t having it and argued that he was still the sickest. After dragging mom into it, she finally ended the contest by calling it a tie. We were both equally sick.
For many years I expected people to treat me with kid gloves because of my out-of-whack emotional disorders. I relied on others to do things for me that I was afraid of doing myself. I relied on my loved ones to protect and defend me, to be there for me, to boost my confidence, to validate and make excuses for me. And the more I relied on others, the more dependent I became.
Then, hearing my desperate cries at the healing pool one day, Jesus knelt beside me and whispered, “Do you want to get well?”
When the prison doors swung open, I just stood there gazing wide-eyed into the vastness of freedom. It was scary out there without my crutches —- those emotional handicaps I so desperately clung to for so long. The smell of freedom was alluring and sweet, but stepping into it was like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute.
I still rely on the love and support of my family, but I don’t expect them to sit and hold my hand twenty-four hours a day, not that I ever did. I don’t expect them to make up for everything I lost throughout my life. I don’t expect them to coddle and pamper me and agree with every single thing I do or say.
Just as God has set me free, I set others free. I know what it’s like to be bullied by someone else’s handicaps, and I’d rather cry alone in the coldest, darkest cave than to ever do that to the ones I love.
Freedom always comes at a cost, especially if you’ve been enslaved for a long, long time. In order to gain one thing you have to let go of another and another and another, whatever tattered rag you’re clinging to because it feels reliable and safe.
And as crazy as it seems, many people would rather lie around sucking on their emotional pacifiers than get off their pity pot and walk.
I don’t want to be one of those people. I want to get well. I want to be what I was created to be. I want to take up my mat and walk like a boss!
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked him, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:6