I recently read a local article about child behavior discussing an issue with a boy in a high-risk needs program. The young boy began a discussion with “When I go to jail…” It turns out, all the men in his life are in jail. And all of the home talk is about how those men in jail were unfairly wronged. So, the boy is under the impression that since he is a man in that family, he assumed that his career or his role as an adult is simply to go to jail. As the caseworker of the high risk kids program started to talk with him about how he could change his future, the kid almost couldn’t grasp it.
The kid had to be told other options outside of his culture to understand the possibilities of being made well.
The story about the man at the pool in John 5: 1-15 reads like a new story from the Bible but is all too familiar to me.
A part of me thinks the lesson to learn is that sometimes, even Jesus can’t help us and we have to be willing to help ourselves. A prime example of this is that no one ever says, “Yeah, I sobered Bob up.” Because everyone knows, no one sobers Bob up but Bob.
I see where Jesus is coming from with all that wisdom and insight and all, but I still kinda feel for the guy at the pool. Let me explain.
As the story goes, (and I apologize for simplifying way too much, but for a clearer story, grab your Bible), Jesus goes to this pool area in the city where mostly invalids reside. The people who reside at the pool are waiting to get in to the pool and be healed in some way. While waiting, they are begging. Jesus comes in and gets to this man who’s so close to getting his chance in the pool. He has a prime location. Given that the man has been there for 38 years, he has a prime spot based on seniority. Jesus comes in, asks if the man wants to be healed, the man says something cryptic that one might think meant “Yes.” Jesus tells the man he is healed and to take his mat and walk on. The other regulars at the healing pool question his actions on Sabbath. Jesus walks by a different area of the pool later and finds the man he’d just healed earlier, down on his mat again. “But I just healed you!” he says.
Clearly, when most people read this story, they seem to relate to Jesus. I mean, how many times do we see people who need our help, and we give it to them, and then they just go back to their day and culture and don’t even use our help as a gift? Gah! It’s so annoying! I’m trying to SAVE YOU! And you’re not even grateful or even using my very unsolicited help!
I wish we could go back to the story of the man at the pool and see how it was when he first arrived 38 years prior to that. It must have been awkward, being new to the poor invalid gig and all, having to learn how to beg for a buck. Having to learn from the invalid pros and all.
Figuring out that there’s something I don’t like about myself is tough.
Realizing what it is I need to change is hard.
Putting that change into action is near impossible.
Being tested on it and enduring challenge after challenge through making the change is inevitable. Regression is necessary.
Change, as far as I’m concerned is near impossible when I’m the one initiating change for myself. So, when someone else suggests I change €“ well, I’ll accommodate your request, wait for you to leave the picture and then go back to my ways. Just like the guy at the pool.
Do I want to be made well? You betcha. But my consideration of “well” and your consideration of “well” probably aren’t the same idea.
I’m guessing the guy at the pool when asking for help meant more of a quick fix immediacy kind of a gig: help me into the pool, feed me, or give me money. But to just be made well and have to fend for myself, whoa! It’s a trick question to a lost soul.
I was expecting Jesus to give him a list of things to do once he made the man able to walk again- an instructions manual on being healed, if you will. But he just told him to roll up his mat and go. So the man did – to another corner.
God’s watch, as we all know, is not wound the same as our own. We are taught to be patient and open when hearing back from God. When we are offered help, we need to be patient and thorough in accepting it. And when we are offering help, we need to be patient and thorough in being accepted and understand that it may not be accepted. Even moreso, perhaps our help we’re offering isn’t help at all.
But if Jesus walks up to you and asks if you want to be made well, say YES! How many gifts are we given that we don’t honor God with by using them?