Healing leads to responsibility and conflict. (Listen.)
You are lying by the pool, daydreaming a little. Clouds are scudding across the sky. Your eyes are gently closed; the sun caresses your face; shades of dark and light flicker across your eyelids. You’re half awake, half asleep. As you doze, you hear the gentle lapping of water against the pool wall. You hear the click of a cane as someone shuffles past. You hear the murmur of low voices. Every now and then, there is the rustle of cloth and a soft sigh as someone rearranges their aching limbs, trying to find some ease.
The stone beneath your mat is cool; but the heat of the day warms you. You don’t move; this state of suspended animation is very, very comfortable.
You have been here a long time, longer than you can remember. This place is familiar. This place is home. Most days, people leave a little food in your begging bowl: a piece of fish, a lump of bread, a dried fig or two. Occasionally, you nod your thanks. It is enough. It is enough.
As you lie there, motionless and dreaming, you hear the sudden rushing of the wind. The stirring is beginning, the stirring of the waters which can heal you. But to get there first, you’ll need help to move; you’ll need to ask for assistance. And there is nobody.
At least, nobody you care to ask. And the sun is so warm, and the mat is so comfortable, and the asking is so much effort; and who knows if it will work anyway?
And what would you do if you were healed?
You lie there, quiet and still.
Let someone else do the asking.
Let someone else go in the water today.
Let someone else be made whole.
“Do you want to be made whole?”
The voice shatters your reverie.
“Do you want to be made whole?” he asks again.
Surreptitiously, you open your eyes. A man is standing there, looking at you. Nobody looks at you. Even those people who drop food in your begging bowl always avert their gaze.
But here he is, looking and looking. His gaze is steady and knowing and gentle and true: he sees right into you. He sees how long you have been lying there, paralysed. He sees the people you have pushed away. He sees all those times you heard the rushing of the wind, and the stirring of the waters, and did not ask for help; those times you turned away from healing.
Again, he asks: “Do you want to be made whole?”
Your mind races in confusion. This place is familiar. This place is home. You know this mat, this stone, this sun, this pool, these scraps from other people’s tables.
And it’s the Sabbath, a day of rest. You’ve been here for years: surely you can rest a little longer. And is it breaking the law to be healed on the Sabbath? What will the authorities say?
And you wonder: What does healing mean? Finding work? Building relationships? Taking on responsibilities?
He’s still waiting. You say, “Sir, nobody looks after me. Nobody helps me into the pool; and if I try myself, people always push past me. I never get there first. I never will.”
But the question lingers: “Do you want to be made whole?”
Do you? Do you really? Do you want to be healed from that which hobbles and paralyses and isolates and diminishes you? Do you want to stand on your own two feet? Do you want responsibility? Are you willing to risk conflict? What blocks you? What are you afraid of? What will you need to leave behind?
Do you want to be made whole? Perhaps you think yes. Perhaps you think no. Perhaps you have no idea, and your mind is still in turmoil.
Whatever, the man smiles as if hope is something he has in bucketfuls. “Get up!” he says. “Get up! And take your mat, and walk.”
Straightaway you feel the warmth in your limbs, and the tingling in your spine, and the strength in your body, and the fullness in your heart. Whatever was holding you back is gone! With this man, you are full of new life; through this man, you are made whole.
You are overflowing with life, more life! You get up, and you take your mat, and you stand. No hobbling, no limping, no crutches. Just you, on your own two feet, walking tall. You take another step, then two then three … then suddenly you’re striding!
And you stride slap bang into responsibility, and trouble. Ω
Healing in Christ looks different for every one of us. The consequences of healing differ, too. What does healing look like for you? What are the challenges? What are the consequences? Where is the joy?
A meditation on John 5:1-9 given to Sanctuary, 26 May 2019 © Alison Sampson, 2019. May be used freely in worship and similar non-commercial environs, appropriately attributed – but do drop us a line and let us know! Image credit: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.