I’ve been struggling lately with what it means to have a lifetime disability, and have found myself pondering the events of John 5, so grateful that the Bible includes stories of people like me. I believe Jesus’ offer of wholeness is one that is extended to all of us. This post is told from the man’s perspective who was healed at the Pool of Bethesda. I also included a note at the end about a new book I recently read called Whole by my friend Steve Wiens.
What’s it like being disabled for 38 years?
It feels different at 38 than it did at 28 and so much longer and dismal than when I was young. It’s one thing to know there is no cure, it’s another thing to feel it. Increased fatigue, limited function, chronic pain. Time itself seems weighty like compounding interest on a large debt. At first the burden seems bearable, but over time you become consumed and broken. Day after day, like earning pennies on the dollar, you believe with increasing amounts that your life is very hard and things will never change.
Self-pity is a pool you splash in and you never want to get out of that pool, even when your lips start to turn purple, even when your family and friends are standing there with a towel, ready to embrace you the moment you chose something different.
Change is hard because wallowing distorts your point view. You forget that you live at Bethesda, the House of Mercy, and that the 5 porches around the pool are supposed to remind you of God’s grace or the strength of Torah; those details just fade into the background as your eyes become green with envy.
Envious of the people who make it into the Pool of Bethesda before you. The water is spring-fed and every so often an angel comes and stirs the water. Whoever makes it in first, gets healed. I’ve sat here and watched year after year, while someone else gets healed, someone else gets blessed, someone else goes on to find the pleasure of a relationship, a body restored, a life filled again with joy.
That’s why when people talk to me, my only response is complaint. There is no one here to get me into the pool. Someone else always gets there before me.
Then one day, Jesus shows up and asks me one question: Do you want to be made whole?
I muttered to Him my standard response before even thinking. There is no one here to get me into the pool. Someone else always gets there before...me.
My sentence faded out. Jesus looked at me and I began to fathom the depths of his question.
Did I want to be made whole?
Jesus was asking me if I wanted to flourish. Did I want my soul to become like the mist that sprang up from the earth to water the ground at the dawn of creation? Did I want to discover the well of water within me that could spring up to everlasting life?
Could I really believe the ancient words of Isaiah were for me too: The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
What Jesus was offering me was so much more than healing from the waters in the pool. He was inviting me into a new way of life. One that set me free from self-pity and envy. Jesus was giving me access to the power I needed to stop wishing I had someone else’s life and start living my own.
That’s why, when Jesus told me to get up and walk, I found the strength to stand on my own two feet and take the next steps forward in my life--a life that was becoming whole.
Yesterday I finished reading an advanced copy my friend Steve Wiens’ new book Whole: Restoring What is Broken in Me, You, and the Entire World. Steve has a beautiful way of illustrating scripture, both through his own creativity, but also through clear teaching of the Bible and its original language. Steve is a unique teacher who can bend down and scoop up the dirt of life, feel it’s gritty quality, acknowledging the pain that we all face is very real. But, somewhere in that sifting process, he also sees hope, and helps readers see it as well. His book is about discovering where you may be at on your own journey towards wholeness, and what questions may be helpful to ask along the way.
You can pre-order his book today on Amazon. Stay tuned because I am going to be giving seven copies away on Facebook later this summer with a fun trivia contest! You can learn more about my friend Steve, his books, and podcast on his Website https://www.stevewiens.com/