You may know the story of the famous natural pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (Bible, John 5:1-9), whose waters were believed to heal when they churned at unpredictable intervals. A crippled man lay by the pool for thirty-eight years, waiting for the waters to stir so he could be cured. Jesus approached him, and instead of touching him, as with others He healed, Jesus asked the man a crucial question.
“Do you want to get well?”
The man did not answer directly but responded that he needed someone to lower him into the pool at the right time. Others, he added, always got in ahead of him.
Jesus seemed to ignore this explanation and responded, “Pick up your mat and walk.”
The man did. He was healed.
Do You Want To Get Well?
This exchange has many lessons for us, even though they may make us squirm.
First, Jesus qualified the man: “Do you want to get well?”
Do we want to get well — give up our complaining and blaming, our image of a sick self, to do what we protest we can’t? Or do we love our deprivation and misery? Do we keep repeating that the world is against us, that others have all the luck? Does our poor-me status make us feel special? Do we hug it to us like a comforter?
Second, the man did not reply to Jesus’ question but voiced a condition: someone had to help him into the water when it swirled. This, he believed, was the only means of healing.
What are our excuses for not looking into ourselves for the power to get well, to remedy our ills? Too little time-money-energy-health-guidance-confidence? Too old-young-poor-stupid-unschooled-ugly-fat-guilty-ashamed?
What is the “water” we look to? The perfect other, the right contacts, pills, diets, fasts, funds, locations, degrees? Do we look to if-onlys and when-thens? We are sure that after all these remedies or changes finally take place we will be healed and able to do what we say we really want to.
But have you noticed? Another when-then always pops up.
Is It Somebody Else's Responsibility?
Third, the cripple continued to blame others — he said no one would help him into the pool and others always made it in there before him. Are we putting the blame and responsibility on others to “save” us? Are we waiting for someone somehow to push us, nudge us even a few inches? Are we waiting for the right time, responses, physical look, bank account, permission, weather, confluence of planets?
Or do we feel we have to make a pilgrimage to our version of the pool — Jerusalem, Mecca, a retreat, a cave, a church full of saintly relics? Do we think we have to travel to a center or hospital, professional, specialist, holy man, holy mountain?
Such beliefs are what keep us crippled, sidelined, and mired in our continued misery or frustration. Most of us are waiting in some way, giving ourselves all those excuses that sound so sane, reasonable, and irreproachable. That’s why we remain at our own pool of Bethesda.
But Jesus didn’t listen to any of the excuses. He didn’t even address the “reality” of the cripple’s situation — that no one would lower him into the pool, or indeed that he was even crippled.
Jesus saw only the man’s innate wholeness, the wholeness he deserved. That is why Jesus commanded him to get up and walk.
Looking Past Any Supposed Obstacles and Impossibilities
So, like Jesus, think of the “walk” you dearly want that you’ve been excusing yourself from. Healing a chronic condition? Going back to school? Taking steps toward a new job? Clearing out the spare room for a painting studio? Resuming yoga? Learning Norwegian? Writing a poem, or a novel? Harmonizing your important relationship? Spending more special time with your children?
Like Jesus, look past any supposed obstacles and impossibilities, or better, ignore them entirely. See and consistently visualize yourself “walking” in the ways you most desire, doing and being what you most want.
You don’t need to concern yourself with the details (spiritual teacher Mike Dooley calls them “the cursed hows”). Jesus didn’t marshal onlookers to lower the man into the water, tell him to rub salve on his legs, wrap them in pressure bandages, or even get a cane. Jesus saw and affirmed only the completed whole. As you do likewise, trust that the means will come forth for your own “walking.”
Seeing Beyond Appearances
Look too at when Jesus healed the man — on the Sabbath (and it wasn’t the first time). The Jewish law decreed that any kind of “work” was forbidden on this day, and this act was one of several that helped build the Jewish leaders’ case against him and would lead to His persecution.
Why is this Sabbath healing important for us? Jesus didn’t let a manmade rule stop or deter him. He said that His “Father” was always working (John 5:17). He knew that the universal law of healing knows no calendar. And so for us: it is available anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances, situations, or conditions.
You too can see beyond the appearance of what is plaguing you. He commanded, “Pick up your mat and walk.” Not only walk but more — “pick up your mat.”
This command shows Jesus’ complete faith in the process and the crippled man’s ability. Despite lying almost immobile for thirty-eight years, and the justifiable assumption that he was very weak, Jesus would had none of it. He saw the man not only as whole but as wholly strong and capable. And the cripple, feeling the force of Jesus’ conviction and love, obeyed and measured up.
As can we. When we see and act beyond our present appearances and state of affairs, whatever they are, to wholeness, we too are on our way to healing. As we feel, believe, picture the wholeness, so it will come into being.
Are You Watching Life Parade By?
What’s keeping you hunched up by the pool, clutching your old blanket of excuses, pitiably watching life parade by?
Whatever it is, it’s false.
Do you feel like a lowly wretch? You are the most high.
Do you feel separated? Claim your union with your Father.
Do you feel “sinful”? Your only sin is thinking you are sinful.
Do you feel powerless? You have all power from the All Powerful.
Do you feel you cannot control your life? You are the creator and fashioner of your life by Divine Right.
Do you feel impoverished? Not a chance. Look at the banquet of life, the banquet of all good already here for you.
Do you feel non-deserving? You deserve all good, all that you truly desire, all that makes your heart sing and soar.
Now is the time, the only time, this moment.
Now you deserve. All is available and waiting for you to claim it.
So, pick up your own mat. You need no longer wait by your version of the pool of Bethesda. Right now, you can walk and run and skip — and claim your healing and your never-ending good.
©2015 by Noelle Sterne, Ph.D.
Book by this Author
Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams
by Noelle Sterne.
About the Author
Noelle Sterne is an author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor. She publishes writing craft articles, spiritual pieces, essays, and fiction in print, online periodicals, and blog sites. Her book Trust Your Life contains examples from her academic editorial practice, writing, and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Her book for doctoral candidates has a forthright spiritual component and deals with often overlooked or ignored but crucial aspects that can seriously prolong their agony: Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping With the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (September 2015). Excerpts from this book continue to be published in academic magazines and blogs. Visit Noelle's website: www.trustyourlifenow.com