Tag Archives: healing

The Day the Healer and Real Healing Came to Bethesda

What a surreal sight it must have been. The lame, the blind, the paralyzed, and people suffering from all sorts of diseases. A sad assemblage of hurting humanity, lying, sprawling, crawling, languishing around Jerusalem’s Pool of Bethesda. In the fifth chapter of his Gospel, the Apostle John describes the sad scene.

As is so often the case surrounding the most poignant examples of human suffering, humans trying to survive the situation and ravaged by an incredible range of emotions, are torn between varying mixtures of faith and “magic,” genuine trust and irrational superstition.

Verse 4 here brings up an interesting (and astonishingly rare) textual question we’ll not tackle, but verse 7 tells us what at least one man lying by that pool believed strongly enough that he somehow managed to get to the pool and spend days, weeks, months, years there.

I’m pretty sure we can assume that the rest of that sad crowd shared the same belief. They believed that when the water of the pool was “troubled,” the first person who got into the water following the “troubling” would be healed. Word was that the intermittently stirred up waters were stirred up by an angel, and, somehow, power was left in the water. Get there first and get healed.

I find myself with some questions here. I wonder, for example, about the focus of this sort of “faith.” Was it faith in water, faith in an angel, faith in a procedure?

We still hear about that last sort of “faith.” “Faith” that God will have to give me the “right” answer (that means the one I want), if I do enough mental gymnastics to convince myself that no other answer is possible. It seems to me that the focus of such “faith” is more on me and my effort than it is on God.

I don’t know what most of the suffering folks beside the Pool of Siloam were thinking on the day Jesus was there. But John tells us a little about what one man, a man suffering terribly for 38 years, was thinking as Jesus asks him a great question, “Do you want to be healed?”

It’s a serious question. Many people meet hardship with courage, but the sad truth is that others choose to make “victim” their identity. Healing is the very last thing they want. Such sickness is far deeper than physical and harder to heal.

Perhaps the sad man nodded his head, but his roundabout answer refers to a procedural problem: “I have no one to get me into the pool, so whenever the water is troubled, somebody else always gets in first.” So he’s saying, I’m messed up! Because of my bad situation, I need to get into the pool, but because of my bad situation, I can’t. I’m a victim of my circumstances.

How much faith does this man have and where is it focused? That is debatable. But the Lord who is stronger than any circumstance, our God who is not impressed with our recipes for magic—however “religious” they may sound—and who is stronger than our weak faith, says simply, “Rise up! Take up your bed and walk.”

Real healing has come to Bethesda. No trip to the pool required.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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Repeat Regularly: “There Is One God; I Am Not Him”

“Oh, I guess I’m just a perfectionist,” I opined, in an “Aw, shucks!” sort of feigned shame tone, as I tried to hide the weird contortions required to pat oneself on the back.

But twisted pride is one of perfectionism’s pernicious symptoms. Perfectionists like to think they are a cut above ordinary folks. We have, we think, higher standards, work with more diligence, and see more clearly than pretty much everyone else.

Granted, low standards, lazy workers, and the lousy outcomes produced by such are not hard to find. But those ills are never cured by perfectionists; if anything, they are made worse. Even folks who do an average to slightly above average job just want to give up under the incessant pressure of a perfectionist’s thumb; folks on the lower end of the scale won’t even try.

Perfectionism’s thinly-veiled arrogance, along with out-of-balance priorities, and deep (and sick) need to be in control, spells death to any sort of genuine contentment and pushes family, friends, and co-workers, away. Perfectionism sucks the air out of any room and throttles healthy relationships. And perfectionists are sadly unable to see perfectionism’s malignant imperfection.

Yes, its pride is stinky. But the real rot at its heart is the poison of fear, the soul-throttling terror of never being able to measure up, which leads to frantic effort—never ceasing, never resting, and, of course, never succeeding—to be completely in control.

In the final analysis, perfectionism is idolatry, and idolatry always fails. Since we are incapable of being in absolute control of our own lives—and were never meant to be—we fail at being our own gods. And since others were never meant to acknowledge us as their gods, we fail at forcing those around us to “have no other gods before us.” Bowing down to the true God is freeing; bowing down to a perfectionist is enslaving and utterly exhausting. Eventually, the slaves will revolt. The spouse has had it. The kids’ act out or get sick. The co-workers quit.

Based on miserable insecurity and fear, not on “high standards” as the perfectionist likes to suppose, perfectionism never works. “Good enough” will never be “good enough” under a perfectionist’s reign. No victimless malady, it will render both the sufferer and those who suffer the sufferer miserable.

And forget the myth that perfectionism is productive. Study after study has shown the truth one song-writer put into words: The way to write a really good song is to write a good many bad ones. Living life in a fear-based, frantic attempt to produce perfection really means not producing much at all (and certainly not enjoying the process).

Anne Lamott has written, “I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

For Christians, the truth is even more serious. Perfectionism is a denial of the gospel, a slap in the face of the Savior, as perfectionists live and act as if they need no saving at all, certainly not as much as ordinary folks. But to accept Christ’s sacrifice requires admitting our utter inability to save ourselves. It’s only when we confess our powerlessness, weakness, and imperfection that he enables us to throw off the fear, futility, and idolatry of perfectionism, to embrace his deep peace and joy and live truly gracious lives in the sure knowledge that we are saved by sheer mercy and grace.

Maybe I should delete all of the above and just write (and repeat each hour) an eight-word anti-perfectionism creed: There is one God. I am not Him.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


Christ’s Question to a Blind Man Is a Question to Us All

 

John 9 blind man

“Do you want to be healed?”

Jesus’ question in John 9 to a “man born blind” seems strange at first. The answer was, “Yes!” And it would, of course, be the sincere answer of many, then and now, should the Lord ask and the opportunity truly be offered.

But answering it might require much more honest, difficult soul-searching than we might expect. You see, the uncomfortable truth is that, for some of us at some times in our lives, we simply can’t afford to be healed. It may actually be the last thing we want.

Once this blind man was healed, good news! He no longer had to sit by the side of the road and beg. But more news: he no longer could, even if, for some reason, he wanted to.

In asking the question, Jesus is also asking this man to grapple with who he really is. The Healer is willing to heal him, if that is what he really wants. But Jesus is amazingly unwilling to force himself and his healing on anyone. The deep honesty Jesus asks this blind man to embrace is no easy thing.

Am I willing to be that honest myself? What if my blindness or disease is not so much physical as a “disabling” attitude—critical, grouchy, grinchy, selfish, hard, cynical, bitter, etc. Yes, it shrivels my soul, but maybe I’ve learned how to use it to control and manipulate the people around me—and they tiptoe around to let me and rarely call my hand. What if Jesus offered healing? Would I really want it?

Healing can be hard! I can’t help but wonder if this former blind man was ever tempted during incredibly dark times (even for him) to renounce his healing and pick up his beggar’s bowl? Was he ever tempted to go back to the begging he’d known rather than embrace the health that required so much and was at times so frightening because it was unknown?

I don’t know about him, but I know about me. I’m picking up my own “beggar’s bowl” every time in attitude or action I act as if I have a right to be treated as some sort of victim. I do not.

I’m in awe of the truly courageous people I see each day dealing with great difficulty—physically, emotionally, and otherwise—who refuse to see themselves as victims. But I too often see in myself—with far less reason—a surprising unwillingness to accept genuine healing and the responsibility that comes with it. I don’t like what it says about me when I find myself expending great effort to be sure that nothing as demanding as something approaching wholeness and maturity is required of me.

For “healed” folks, the drama is over. Now the duties, tasks, activities required of healthy people are required of me. I can no longer center on my hard lot, playing for sympathy, controlling others by my supposed status as a perpetual “victim,” if that’s my temptation.

Not everyone truly physically or emotionally damaged has the opportunity for health the man in John 9 did. But do we see that in some ways Christ’s question comes to us all at a very deep level? “Do you want to be healed?”

The answer will shape our lives and the lives of those around us, some of whom are the innocents who pay a heavy price if we actually have a choice—and choose to remain perpetual “victims.”

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Too Much Political TV Leads to Soul Heartburn

 

TVRemote2

Confession is “good for the soul.” So I confess: I’ve been watching too much political TV. And that leads to soul heartburn.

It’s one thing to want some information. We do, after all, have a big election coming up. Yea, verily, presidential. Surely is looking like I’ll be holding my nose with one hand, voting with the other, and then washing with soap. But I’d like to be a voter who is as informed as he is nauseated.

Enough’s enough, though. Sins of excess often carry their own punishment. A political overdose tends to make me surly, cynical, snippy, and generally depressed. The dog starts avoiding me. I become one of those people who can bring light and joy and laughter into any room just by leaving it.

I need to remember that no election will change who my King is—and that it’s great exercise to punch the power button on the TV remote. OFF more than ON will help my home, my mind, my soul, and my disposition, whether the shows are political or not.

But here’s another confession. While I’ve been writing this, the TV has been on. Sound down, but on. Can you spell “addiction”?

In a pathetic defense, I will say that it’s been an interesting few days politically. Stuff happening fast. Candidates calling it quits. Then endorsing . . . “Are you kidding?! Two days ago, you said, . . .” Really?!

Anyway, I left the TV on, sound down, when I fired up my computer . . . and noticed something. When they’re mute (it takes a button for that) these candidates may reveal more about themselves than when they’re prattling on aloud. I’m not much of a lip-reader, but, sound down, I began to note with new interest what their faces and body language may be saying more loudly than their words. Eyes really are a window into the soul. Body language is a real language.

Some of these folks point a lot. Some scowl a lot. Some seem habitually angry. Some smile seemingly genuinely, easily. Some smile “plastically,” on cue; the smile-time message from their mouths was hijacked before it got to their eyes. Some tilt their heads back and look down their noses. All of them just look tired. The most interesting body language I’ve seen was telegraphed from a former candidate standing behind the guy he’d just endorsed. The endorser looked like he desperately needed a strong antidepressant or a big gin and tonic.

If I’m reading the body language right, I’ve seen a candidate or two I’d like to invite into my home for a talk. Some others? Not hardly.

In any case, I recommend the sound down approach for a change. The proverb-writer is on to something when he warns that a “troublemaker” not only “goes about with a corrupt mouth,” he “winks maliciously with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers” while he is plotting “evil with deceit in his heart” (Proverbs 6).

I wonder what my own body language says about my heart, my soul. More than I suspect, I suspect.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering


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