Monday, October 17, 2011

When God Asks the Questions: do you want to be made well?

 Reflections and ripples on the Frio, September 2011

Thirty-eight years, I've laid on this mat.
Every day, this same spot.
Weak and waiting.
Wondering if today might be the day.
My body simply will not do what I will it to do.
I want to move,
just a little.
To move closer to the water.
The water that has the power in it.
The power to give me strength,
to help me stand,
to make me move again.

But, here I sit; here I wait.
There is no one who cares enough about me
to offer a hand.
Not one.
So I lie here.
And I watch.
And I wait.

You might call me a hopeless case.
A cock-eyed optimist, always thinking,
"Today might be the day!"
But I am actually more of a realist.
Really, I am.
I know my limits.
I know my needs.
And I've lived long enough in this crippled body to know 
that there is nothing to be done for me in the city streets,
in the medical community, such as it is.

So I've chosen to believe the stories I've been told.
The stories about this water - this
special water, this pool by the Sheep Gate.
The place where the rams to be offered on the altar
are washed clean of any dirt or grime,
made clean, spotlessly so - before they are 
slaughtered and burnt for the sins of our community.

Every so often, the water in this pool bubbles up.
Maybe it's a spring with the hiccups,
I don't know.
But every once in a while,
if you're watching very carefully,
you can see the bubbles and the ripples.
My people believe those ripples are caused 
by the beating of angels' wings.
Colorful picture, isn't it?
The heavenly visitor stirs the water -
and if you're quick enough to be the first person into
the water after the stirring -
well then, your troubles are over.
Your disease is cured, your injury healed,
your dignity restored.

So, this is my chosen place.
There has been no help, no 'success' thus far.
Yet I continue to hold out hope that one of these
water-rippling days, I shall be the first one in,
the one who leaps for joy on my way back to the city,
back to life.

So I guess that's why the rabbi's question just now 
startled me a little.
I watched him come into our little circle,
the circle of lay-abouts, waiting for the water to move.
And I watched him asking questions,
questions about me, of all things.
I could hear the whispers of reply,
"Oh yes, that one has been here a very long time."

And then he looked at me.
He looked at me with such intensity, 
I almost had to avert my eyes from his gaze.

"Do you want to get well?" he asked.

Do I want to get well?

Is it not obvious?
"I try, sir, I try with all my might to be the first one
into the water. But there is no one to help me, you see.
And someone else always beats me to it."

I almost expected a rebuke of some sort,
a 'buck-up, lad' sort of response.
But I didn't get that,
not at all.
Not. At .All.

But here is what I did get:
"Get up!  
Pick up your mat and walk."

And that is exactly what I did.
I did not hesitate, not for a second.
I kept looking into those eyes,
those tightly-focused, blazing eyes
and what I saw there was all I needed:
deep concern,
total commitment to my well-being,
and hope
more than enough hope to match my own.

So I got up.
And I picked up that oh-so-familiar mat.
And I walked away from the pool,
free for the first time in decades -
free to decide where to go,
whom to see,
who to be.

Today was my day, you see.
The heavenly visitor arrived and spoke directly to me.
He delivered a prescription,
and I chose to take it.
He asked and I answered.
Hallelujah. Amen.
How about you?

My thanks to Pastor Don Johnson for his challenging sermon on this text from John 5 yesterday. Linking with Michelle at Graceful and Jen at Finding Heaven this Monday afternoon, with thanks for their weekly invitations: