2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Healing stories are woven into every gospel. And to be honest, given our scientific understandings and the growth in health care/hospitals, alongside new understandings of medicine with methods like acupuncture and vitamins and the complex make up of the food we eat; the stories as the ones above seem like a remnant of a bygone age. They feel antiquated and perhaps the less said about these narratives, the better. After all, is this even true? How could commanding someone who has longed to walk for so many years suddenly stand up and start strolling or skipping along his merry way?
There are two thoughts this narrative awakens in me. First is the difference between healing and cure. Healing relates to our overall wellness, the interconnection of mind, body, and spirit running on all cylinders - in sync and in harmony with each other. Cure relates to an absence of illness. I can be cured of what ails me without really being healed. And I can feel healed while still living with an illness. Most of the time, these two do go together, so it makes sense that we use the words interchangeably and conflate the meanings. At other times, there are those who live with incurable cancer who have a tremendously peaceful/healed spirit they share with all those around them.
The second thought is how often I get in my own way of feeling healed. Something externally happens (some kind of loss) and my whole body/health/life/emotional/spiritual well being is turned upside down. And while that is normal and natural, I can also let those bad days fester; and what is really making me ill is my own anger and excuses. Of course I don't feel good, my co-worker is always being mean to me. Of course I self-medicate with chocolate, I have teenagers. The man, sitting by the edge of the pool had all sorts of reasons not to wade in the water. Other people budged in line and they were just meanies!
Sometimes what is really causing me to be un-well is a pity party with an invitation to just me. Other times the illness needs a doctor. Other times the illness needs companionship. Other times the illness needs someone telling me to suck it up and realize that life is not fair. Other times the illness confuses everyone and there is no one explanation or pill to solve my problems.
Life is that complex. Healing and wellness inside that life is often even more complex. And sometimes the best invitation is to spend today trying to notice and name the traces of God's grace in our life. And I pray you and I will both attempt to do that today. Who knows, we might even feel better.