Do You Want to Be Made Well?
That question hits me differently this year, in the midst of a pandemic, when I am concerned with the health of my family, friends, and neighbors I have not even met. We all want this quarantine way of life to be over, yet we also have pandemic fatigue. It is so hard not to hug, visit, or be together. It is so annoying not to travel. The long days of winter seem longer while cooped up at home.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus stops at the pool of Bethsaida where those who are sick gather. Jesus asks a man who has been lying there for 38 years, “Do you want to be made well?” You can read the passage – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+5%3A1-9&version=CEB
The man is clearly in need of healing. He is at the Sheep Gate, at the pool rumored to be stirred up by an angel of the Lord sometimes, and the first person to get in that moving water is healed. Why would Jesus ask him if he wants to be healed? Of course he wants to be healed, and says a loud, “YES!” Actually, that is not how the story goes at all. Instead of shouting yes, the man tells Jesus that he needs someone to put him in the water, and that someone always beats him to it. Maybe that is the truth. Maybe it is an excuse. Maybe he has been ridiculed so much in his life that he is defensive.
Do you want to be made well? Yes, but not if I have to do anything about it. I am tired of wearing a mask, staying home, and not seeing other people. I am tired of not eating out, traveling, or even having a vacation planned. I am tired of hearing stories of people dying, of long-term consequences of having covid-19, and also hearing others denying the severity of the virus. I am tired of having loved ones contract covid, and worrying about others potentially contracting it. I am tired, because this has been going on for almost a year, and I have done my part and tried to make the best choices and follow guidelines. (I am sure I have failed at times.)
We all want the pandemic to be over, but then pandemic fatigue is real, and we start taking risks. We want to escape the frigid winter and go some place warm. We expand our pod. We dine in, unmasked while we eat. We hug, because we need each other. Do you want this to end? Yes, but I am tired of this way of life. We started this pandemic during Lent last year. In many ways, it seems like this last year has been a year of Lent, in the penitential and sacrificial ways of observing it.
Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite days in the liturgical calendar. Why? We remember that we are mortal – we have been formed from dust and to dust we shall return. Genesis 2:7 “then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” It is a day that we remember our failings, and take a step in healing. Lent is the period of 40 days plus six Sundays leading up to Easter. It is a time of reflection, self-examination, and deepening our relationship with God. Sometimes people give something up or take something on to aid in their spiritual focus during the season. Every Lent, I think my life is going to be changed. Each year, when I allow myself to be changed, I am. When I fight the transformation, when I don’t allow God to do God’s healing work in me, then my life doesn’t change.
“Do you want to be made well?” I pray that we will not answer like the sick man, with fact or excuse. I pray that we will instead open ourselves up to healing. I pray that we will allow the healing work of God to transform us. I pray that we will all care for one another by wearing masks, by doing our part to not spread the virus, and by reaching out to those who are lonely. I pray that this pandemic will end sooner rather than later. I pray that I have the wisdom to always seek healing.