Monday, September 3, 2012

Do You Want to Get Well?



One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
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?”
 
 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.
While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
 
Seems to me that Jesus was asking a stupid question.  How could that man not WANT to get well?  He had been sitting at the pool for 38 years!  He was waiting for his chance.   His family left him there so that he could get well.  They weren't planning on a lecture.  He wasn't planning on being used as a teaching illustration to a rabbi's disciples.  He just needed someone to tip him into the pool when the angel arrived.  Doesn't that sound like a man who wanted to be healed?  (If you noticed a snarky tone, you are right on target.)
 
I was thinking about this passage throughout the week.  It is difficult to change, as difficult as it would be for that invalid to make it into the swirling pool for healing.  Perhaps part of him knew that it wouldn't work.  Perhaps he had watched those with heartburn or 5 pounds to lose jump over him to get in the pool and then jump out like before but with claims that it had worked.  It really is a story told over and over again....

"I need help.  Financially, I am a mess, close to bankruptcy, but, make snowball payments?  Nah, bankruptcy wipes it clean, right?  I'll just do that."

"The doctor told me that I am morbidly obese and will die of heart disease and diabetes.  In fact, he already put me on medication for them.  Change my diet?  Maybe after I finish what I already have in the fridge."

"I walked into a door again!  You know I am always falling.  I just want your phone number since I am trying to get connected to women again.  Oh, I love him!  I just need to listen better!  I even started a new group therapy to help me take him into consideration."

We have lots of reasons to continue in our self destructive ways.  And they all have to do with our ability to withstand pain.

In recovery, we know that pain is a motivator.  In fact, I don't think that there are too many people who change without being moved by pain.  Unfortunately, not everyone has the same threshold for pain, and not all pain is the same.  It seems that spiritual pain: being disconnected from everything and everyone, having nothing to live for, having no love, that is the pain that seems to move people the most.  We call this, "the gift of desperation."

What do you do when people say that they want help, but not enough to bloody their finger tips to move to the edge of the pool?  Do they really want help?  Or do they just want the pain to stop?  If it isn't enough to move them, but only us, will the pain truly stop?  Or will it just change?  Waiting to deepen?

I don't know what the answers are, how to alleviate suffering and pain without causing harm or interfering with what God may be doing in a person's heart.  Perhaps I will just follow Jesus' lead and see what the person's response is:

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

Ideas?

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