“Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids – blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’” (John 5:2-8)
I’m a woman plagued by introspection. I am a veteran of therapy and walk openly with a small group of women with a “no secrets” policy. As a result, I spend a decent amount of time talking and thinking about the sins and struggles in my life.
In therapy, you learn a lot about how past events and relationships have affected the way you see the world in the present. It is healthy and good to press into those things and to acknowledge and accept how you have been changed by them. It is a part of your story. And your story is worth telling.
The problem, however, comes when that acknowledgement turns cancerous and morphs itself into blame. The cancer of blame is malignant. And it’s cancer of the eyes.
To look at the past through the lens of the gospel is to seek healing and grace and redemption. But to look at the past through the lens of blame is to sit at the edge of Bethesda and just wait for the water to rise.
I have this picture in my mind of what I’m “supposed” to be like. It’s the thought of what I would have been like if it wasn’t for this broken relationship, or that foolish decision, or this tragic event. And it’s a really strange form of idolatry because once again its idolizing a version of myself that isn’t real. (Let’s call it Part 2 of “So Madly in Love with Me”). I think, if this wouldn’t have happened to me, I would be okay. I would be the person I was intended to be. I would be whole.
But I’m not okay. I’m not that person. So it has to be because of the X, Y, and Z of my past that I sin and I fall the way I do.
Translation: I am a victim and a sinner. But I am only a sinner because I am a victim.
Reality: I am sunbathing at the edge of Bethesda.
Rather than finding my way to the healing waters I am basking in the light of my pain. Because the benefit of being a victim is that it feels like you don’t have to take responsibility for your actions anymore.
It’s like I’m standing at the edge of this pool saying, “Don’t you see? If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be this way! But surely I can’t reach the water – I can’t really be healed from this. So maybe I am self-centered and self-serving. Who can blame me after what has happened?”
And then Jesus walks up and says, “do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6).
And I think my answer is “no”.
Let’s put some flesh on this. Because I don’t think I am sunbathing alone.
“If my family hadn’t avoided conflict so much, I would be less passive-aggressive.”
“If that relationship hadn’t been so unhealthy, I wouldn’t try to control you like that.”
“If my parents didn’t get divorced, I would be better at trusting people.”
“If I hadn’t been hurt or abused in this way, I wouldn’t be such a disaster.”
And on and on and on.
Surely we can’t be blamed for this. Everyone is marked by the things of their past. It’s not my fault that I’m a skeptic now after this happened and that happened and he happened.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
So, do you want to be healed? Or do you want to keep grasping on to your excuses so you don’t have to face the sobering realities of being a sinner?
You are passive-aggressive because you need Jesus. You try to to control other people because you need Jesus. You don’t trust people because you don’t trust God. You are a disaster because sin begets sin.
A different past, even one less marked by pain and struggle, is not magic water that could heal you from those things. This man has been sitting by this water “for a long time” wishing he could be changed and Jesus doesn’t even help him into the pool. Instead, he asks him if he wants to be healed and then tells him to get up and walk.
If your family had been different, if you hadn’t let that relationship go on so long, if you had never been hurt or abused or wronged like you were, you would still be just as much in need of Jesus as you are today.
So, do you want to be healed? Because scripture says that you already are. There is no condemnation for sin for the believer (Romans 8:1). And you have been given everything you need for godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
Your sins are forgiven. Your wounds are healed. And your excuses are void.
Quit basking in the benefits of being a victim. Get up, take up your bed, and walk.