By Noelle Sterne
Maybe you know the story, recounted in the New Testament, John 5: 1-9. At the famous natural pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, whose waters were believed to heal when they churned, a man crippled for 38 years lay by the pool. He was waiting for the waters to stir so he could be cured. Jesus approached him. But He didn’t touch him, as with others He healed. Instead, Jesus asked the man a question. It was crucial.
“Do you want to get well?”
Rather than answering directly, the man responded that he needed someone to lower him into the pool at the right time. Others, he added, always got in ahead of him. Jesus seemed to ignore this explanation. In reply, he said, equally crucial,
“Pick up your mat and walk.”
And the man did. He was healed.
Not only is this dialogue surprising but it has many lessons. The applications to our lives may make us squirm, but we can learn a lot.
First, Jesus qualified the man: “Do you want to get well?” Are we the pilgrim by the pool? Do we really want to do what we protest we can’t? Or do we love our deprivation and misery? Do we complain the world is against us, that others have all the luck? Does our poor-me status make us feel special? Do we hug it to us like a comforter?
Second, the man did not reply to Jesus’ question but looked to the water, believing its movement was the only means of healing him. What are our excuses for not looking into ourselves for the power to get well, to remedy our ills? No little time-money, too old-young-poor-stupid-unschooled-ugly-fat-guilty-ashamed?
And what’s the “water” we look to? Pills, diets, fasts, juices, funds, education, a lower number on the scale? Do we look to if-onlys and when-thens? Only then, we think, after all these remedies or changes finally take place will we be healed, will we finally be able to do what we say we really want to.
But have you noticed? Another when-then always pops up.
Third, the cripple continued to put the blame on others—he said no one would help him into the pool and others always got there before him. Are we putting the blame and responsibility on others to “save” us? Are we waiting for someone somehow to push us, move us even a few inches? Are we waiting for the right time, responses, physical look, bank account, permission, weather, confluence of planets?
Or do we feel we have to make a pilgrimage to our version of the pool—Jerusalem, Mecca, or a church full of saintly relics? Do we think we have to travel to a center or hospital, professional, specialist, spiritual retreat, holy man, holy mountain?
Such beliefs are what keep us crippled, sidelined, and mired in our continued misery or frustration. Most of us are waiting in some way, giving ourselves all those excuses that sound so sane, reasonable, and irreproachable. That’s why we remain at our own pool of Bethesda.
But Jesus didn’t listen to any of the excuses. He didn’t even address the “reality” of the cripple’s situation—that no one would lower him into the pool, or indeed that he was even crippled. Instead, Jesus looked past all the apparent circumstances.
He saw only the man’s innate wholeness, the wholeness he deserved. As if he were whole, Jesus commanded him to get up and walk.
So, like Jesus, think of the “walk” you dearly want that you’ve been excusing yourself from. Heal a chronic condition? Go back to school? Take steps toward a new job? Clear out the spare room for a painting studio? Resume yoga? Learn Norwegian? Try your hand, or mike, at standup comedy? Write a poem, or a novel? Resolve your important relationship? Spend more special time with your children?
Like Jesus, look past any supposed obstacles and impossibilities, or better, ignore them entirely. See and consistently visualize yourself “walking” in the ways you most desire. See yourself doing and being what you most want.
You don’t need to concern yourself with the details—Jesus didn’t tell the man to rub salve on his legs, wrap them in pressure bandages, or even get a cane. Jesus saw and affirmed only the completed whole. As you do likewise, the means will come forth to start you in your own “walking.”
Look too at when Jesus healed the man—on the Sabbath (and it wasn’t the first time). The Jewish law decreed that any kind of “work” was forbidden on this day. Jesus’ act was one of several that helped build the Jewish leaders’ case against him (and eventually led to His persecution).
What’s the import for us? Jesus didn’t let a manmade rule stop or deter him. He said that His “Father” was always working, as he was (John 5: 17). Jesus knew that the universal law of healing knows no calendar. As we recognize and invoke it, it is available anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances, situations, or conditions.
Nor do you have to wait for any special event, hour, day, or place. You aren’t constrained by any human law or belief.
As Jesus did, you too can see beyond the appearance of what is plaguing you. He commanded, “Pick up your mat and walk.” Not only walk but more—“pick up your mat.”
This command shows Jesus’ complete faith in the process—and the crippled man’s ability. Despite lying almost immobile for 38 years, when it could be assumed he was very weak, Jesus had none of it. He saw the man not only as whole but as wholly strong and capable. And the cripple, feeling the force of Jesus’ conviction and love, obeyed.
As can we. When we see and act beyond our present appearances and state of affairs, whatever they are, to wholeness, we too are on our way to healing. As we feel, believe, picture the wholeness, so it will come into being.
Why keep waiting? It may not be as long as 38 years, but you don’t have to wait any amount of time. Who is your savior? Only you.
Now is the time.
Now is the only time.
Now is the moment.
Now you deserve.
Now all is available.
Now all is waiting for you to claim it.
So what’s keeping you hunched up by the pool, clutching your old blanket of excuses, pitiably watching life parade by?
Whatever it is, it’s false.
Do you feel like a lowly wretch? You are the most high.
Do you feel separated? Claim your union with your Father.
Do you feel “sinful”? Your only sin is thinking you are sinful.
Do you feel powerless? You have all power from the All Powerful.
Do you feel you cannot control your life? You are the creator and fashioner of your life by Divine Right.
Do you feel impoverished in some way? Not a chance. Look at the banquet of life, the banquet of all good that is already here for you.
Do you feel nondeserving? You deserve all good, all that you truly desire, all that makes your heart sing and soar.
So, pick up your own mat. You need no longer wait by your version of the pool of Bethesda. Right now, you can walk and run and skip—and claim your healing and your never-ending good.
Noelle Sterne is an author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor who has published over 300 pieces in print and online venues, including Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Women on Writing, Funds for Writers, Children’s Book Insider, Transformation Magazine, and Unity Magazine. She also writes for Australia’s longest-running spiritually- oriented magazine Living Now. Noelle is an invited regular blogger on Author Magazine’s “Authors’ Blog,” where she explores writing, creativity, and spirituality: http://authormagazineonline.wordpress.com With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has assisted doctoral candidates in completing their dissertations (finally). Based on her practice, she is completing a handbook for doctoral students in difficulties integral to completing their work: Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles. In her2011 book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books), Noelle draws examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Her webinar about the book is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95EeqllONIQ&feature=youtu.be Website: www.trustyourlifenow.com.