I took a book with me on vacation, one that I was considering giving to Ruby next semester to read and report on. The story is about a young Jewish boy living in New Testament times who encounters Jesus.
I was reading it on the bathroom floor late one night (the only place for a bit of privacy when we are all sleeping in one room) and found my heart gripped. I wasn’t expecting this book to speak into my life, I was simply reading it to preview it before giving it to my daughter. But this passage struck into my mind and resonated there:
“‘I have heard Jesus say something like that, when people ask him to cure them. Once there was a lame man on a litter. Jesus bent over him and looked right into his face, and asked him, “Do you want to be whole?” It seemed such a queer question. Why would anyone want to stay crippled?’
“Daniel hesitated…’Haven’t you ever wondered…what good it is for them to be healed, those people that Jesus cures? They’re happy at first. But what happens to them after that? What does a blind man think, when he has wanted for years to see, and then looks at his wife in rags and his children covered with sores? That lame man you saw–is he grateful now? Is it worth it to get on his feet and spend the rest of his life dragging burdens like a mule?'”
I read this passage, and then sat stunned taking in the words. I read it again, and slowly a realization began to creep into my mind.
I am scared of being healed.
Living with the traumatic and the tragic is heartbreaking and heavy. But we have this marvelous survival ability to take these tragic things and make them almost comfortable. Take me and my chronic illness companion, for example. There’s no denying the pain and losses that I suffer daily because I’m unwell. But there are a number of things about being sick that I have made work for me. I can say “no” to activities that I don’t want to do. I have a valid excuse for not keeping up with laundry, cleaning, weeding, cooking, homeschooling, bill-paying, etc. If it’s a particularly down day and I want to feel sorry for myself, I have a reason to. And finally (this one is a little embarrassing to admit), it’s simply nice to have other people express their care and concern for me, in acts of love and prayers. Who doesn’t enjoy an extra dose of love and attention?
This idea of finding comfort in tragedy was further driven home to me when the Sweetie Pie and I were watching our current BBC addiction one evening. In World War II Britain, the war is ending, soldiers are returning home, families are reuniting and everyone should be happy, right? But it seems that no one knows what to do with a normal life. They have lived with death and war and deprivation for so many years, that they don’t know how to do things differently. “I don’t really want the war to end,” one of the characters says. “That’s a terrible thing to say, isn’t it?” We humans are awfully attached to what’s familiar and comfortable, even if it’s tragic and painful.
When Jesus asks the man at Bethsaida “Do you want to be healed?”, I don’t think for a minute that this question is intended to gather information. Jesus knows our hearts, and he knows whether or not we want to be healed. So if the question is not meant for him, it must be meant for the man on the mat. Could this question be a gift, a hint that maybe being healed isn’t going to be all the cripple thinks it will be? Could it be a gentle way of leading the man’s thoughts and his heart into an understanding of the full picture of being made well?
I think so, because this has been my response, when he asked this question of me, as I sat on the bathroom floor holding a book that was intended for my 9-year-old’s history lesson. I had never considered that while there are great gains to be had by being healed, there are also great losses. Whenever I have thought of being healed, I imagined myself eating lasagna and birthday cake, bursting with health and energy. If that’s what healing is, yes, Lord! Please heal me!
But the truth is that there are other implications of being well–accepting more responsibility, volunteering more time, fulfilling more expectations. Accepting these things requires a lot of dying to myself, a lot of growing beyond myself, and a lot of moving outside of comfort. When I look at being healed this way, I find myself content to stay where I am.
In my musing, I came across a profoundly insightful article on this topic (there was no author attached to the writing, so I am sorry that I cannot give due credit.) The author says, “When we ask God for healing in any area of our lives we are really asking for bigger problems to solve.” When I ask to be healed, I think I am asking for God to solve my problems. What I am really asking for is to be taken beyond this place of comfort and despondency, and into someplace new with a greater sense of responsibility and accountability. And it begs the question, “Do I want to be healed?” Am I ready to step out? Am I willing to step up? Some days I feel like I am, other days I’m not so sure.
But since the question has been asked, there is no turning back. It is a question that must be answered, eventually. Because even if I am never healed here, on this earth and in this body, I know that I will one day be healed and whole when I see Him face to face. And so whether this question is preparation for healing here, or for healing There, it is preparation for healing somewhere. And the question must be answered.
“Do I want to be made well?”
For now, it is the best I can do to answer, “Lord, I want to want to be made well,” and hope that it will one day change to “Yes, Lord! I want to be made well!”