I was having a conversation with my husband, Mark, a few days ago about the John 5 story of the paralyzed man at the Pool called Bethesda near the Sheep Gate going into Jerusalem.
Now, in general this was not very attractive real estate. First of all, the sheep gate was where the sheep went in – but never came out. Slaughtering went on just inside that gate, so the respectable people of the city would never use that gate. It was unclean. Unclean in the dead animal, slaughterhouse sort of way.
On top of that, the Bethesda Pool nearby, was where the invalids, diseased, crippled, outcasts and rejects – all unclean --gathered, hoping for a handout, or maybe a miracle.
Jesus came by that gate – and like everything he did – he had a purpose and a lesson. He saw a paralyzed guy who had been lying on his mat for 38 years. I can’t even imagine how filthy that mat must have been. Did it have bugs and fleas?
Do you think that man might have felt sorry for himself? Just a little?
So, Jesus looked at the guy and said, “Do you WANT to be healed?”
This is where our conversation got interesting. Mark suggested that the reason Jesus asked that question was because he knew that the man possibly enjoyed the comfort of his “memory foam” mat, and he kind of reveled in his misery. Sometimes we ask God for things, but we’d actually prefer the comfort of our own habitual sins and sadness, because it’s so familiar. We’re used to things that way; it’s just the way we are.
Well our guy came up with an excuse – in all of his 38 years, he had never been able to get one person to help him to the pool in time to be healed. Not one person gave him a hand. Sounds a little defeatist.
Jesus abruptly said, “Get up, take up your bed and walk.”
The story isn’t over. Jesus and the guy saw each other again.
Later that day when the guy was confronted with questions about what happened since it was the Sabbath, he said, “I didn’t do it, that man told me to get up and walk.” Really!! Blame your healer for the miracle?
So when Jesus bumped into him even later, Jesus said, “I see you’re well.” (maybe a little sarcasm?)
And then Jesus said, “Sin no more that nothing worse may happen to you.”
So, how comfortable is my mat by the pool, anyway?
I have enjoyed having a “word for the year” for the last several years. This is different than making resolutions, and goals and building up my expectations for what I am going to do. This January or even late December habit has been an asking of the Lord, “show me a WORD from your word for me this coming year.“
2020 was the year for TRUST and the verse Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” was the one for me this past year!
As we went through transition from Zambia to Seattle to our home here at 832 Olive Drive in Yorktown, I found many places to say, “I must trust the Lord”! I often thought I need to do this or that so we will be in the right place at the right time. I’m sure I need to remind and nag or cajole my husband, David, or family, so this thing really happens.
We traveled in an “older van” from Seattle to Newport News on the cusp of the wave of COVID as it hit the USA! At every stop we were loved on by supporters, friends and family – if I had underlying fears about getting or spreading the virus the Lord reminded me to Trust Him.
As we found out our travels to Zambia were not going to happen in April the Lord whispered to me “I know you would love to go…but TRUST me I have rest, time for grieving, and place for you to meet me in Albuquerque! Slow down and look at me, Sally. My decrees are very trustworthy! (Ps 93:5a)
God is so gracious to me, his daughter! I need lots of reminding about who He is! Ps. 37:5 reminded me… “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and He will act.” So too is his promise for the future, “Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:20)
As the days of 2020 turned into 2021 the Lord revealed that in these times of waiting to get back to “normal” He has blessed me with more time to pray, read the Word, and enjoy being around the house! He has given me a discovery of delights to read and look pictures to look at from long ago. More recently (below) I have enjoyed poems like this one from Alexander McCall Smith (a favorite Author). This poem puts into words much of my experience over these recent months of COVID.
God has mercifully given me HOPE as my focus for 2021!
Ps. 131:3 “O Israel (Sally) HOPE in the Lord from NOW and forevermore.
In a time of distance
By Alex McCall Smith
The unexpected always happens in the way
The unexpected has always occurred:
While we are doing something else,
While we are thinking of altogether
Different things — matters that events
Then show to be every bit as unimportant
As our human concerns so often are;
And then, with the unexpected upon us,
We look at one another with a sort of surprise;
How could things possibly turn out this way
When we are so competent, so pleased
With the elaborate systems we’ve created --
Networks and satellites, intelligent machines,
Pills for every eventuality — except this one?
And so we turn again to face one another
And discover those things
We had almost forgotten,
But that, mercifully, are still there:
Love and friendship, not just for those
To whom we are closest, but also for those
Whom we do not know and of whom
Perhaps we have in the past been frightened;
The words brother and sister, powerful still,
Are brought out, dusted down,
Found to be still capable of expressing
What we feel for others, that precise concern;
Joined together in adversity
We discover things we had put aside:
Old board games with obscure rules,
Books we had been meaning to read,
Letters we had intended to write,
Things we had thought we might say
But for which we never found the time;
And from these discoveries of self, of time,
There comes a new realisation
That we have been in too much of hurry,
That we have misused our fragile world,
That we have forgotten the claims of others
Who have been left behind;
We find that out in our seclusion,
In our silence; we commit ourselves afresh,
We look for a few bars of song
That we used to sing together,
A long time ago; we give what we can,
We wait, knowing that when this is over
A lot of us — not all perhaps — but most,
Will be slightly different people,
And our world, s, its beauty revealed afresh.