The other day a friend of mine and I were talking about the story of the Pool of Bethesda from John 5. In this story, Jesus visited a pool in Jerusalem. The pool is surrounded by people who are blind, lame, and paralyzed. They are all hoping that the spring waters will make them well again.
I imagine Jesus walking through the crowds looking for the most needy, those who have been suffering the longest. He sees one man who has been ill for thirty-eight years. He asks him, “Do you want to be made well?”
The man, not knowing who Jesus is, says that he wants to get in the pool but can’t because there is no one to help him get in and the others rush in ahead of him. At once, Jesus says to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” And the man is healed.
I have lots of notes in my Bible about this story, but my friend said something to me that I had never thought of before. She said, isn’t it funny how everyone is sitting around focused on this pool of healing and in their midst walks Jesus, the one with the true power to heal.
We talked a bit about all the things in our lives that are our unreachable pools. Our pool that we feel like if we could just get to it, we would feel so much better. All of our problems would be solved. And we focus on how much we want that one thing and we think about how great our lives would be if we could just get that one thing and we while away so many hours in frustration about all the obstacles getting in our way from achieving it.
I can make a long list of my pools of Bethesda without really trying. The end of the coronavirus pandemic is obviously on there, right? A particular outcome for the upcoming presidential election. My kids going back to school in person. The end of the incarceration of innocent people fleeing violence. A check to our church for a million dollars.
And I can go through entire days focused on those dreams, thinking about what it would be like for them to happen, imagining the day when we will return to church for the first time without masks and will have a huge party. I can spend hours feeling frustration over another week going by of still trying to solve the impossible puzzle of work and parenting or feeling anxiety over what is going to happen on election day.
But Jesus is here among us right now, asking us if we want to be made well. And the path to healing and transformation and wholeness isn’t the pool that we think we really need, it's turning towards God.
It’s not that we shouldn't hope for and pray for things. It’s not that we sometimes don’t have desperate needs or incredible suffering that we need help with. It’s that the power to be fully alive and to be in a place of healing relationship is possible right now through centering ourselves in God's presence.
What if we never achieve the one thing we think we need? Will we spend our whole, precious existence wishing for it? What if we do achieve it? Will we feel completely fulfilled and never want again?
There will always be more to worry about and more to wish for. There will always be more to achieve. But we can live this moment in wholeness and love by turning away from whatever it is that we think we need to be whole and instead saying yes to Jesus.
by Dianne Garcia, Pastor of Family Ministry