do you want to get well?

A curious thing about restoration is that it doesn’t need doing. Strictly speaking, life carries on without it. Restoration is an invasion of sorts. It’s fixing something that’s broken, but broken so long it’s almost mended. This man, this woman—they’ve already adapted to their misfortunes, made all the necessary adjustments. Restoration meddles with what they’ve learned to handle, removes what they’ve learned to live with, bestows what they’ve learned to live without. Replacements have been found already, thank you all the same.
These people are doing fine just the way they are. They’ve learned to live this way. They’ve almost accepted it. They’ve taught themselves tricks to bypass it, to contain it. To utilize it, even. They’ve built lives around not being whole. They've learned, if not to welcome, at least not to spurn those things their sickness drags in with it. They've learned not to mourn the absence of those things it chases away. Secretly, perhaps, they have come to love their illness.
Sickness can actually steal the place of God. It can become the sick person's centre, the touchstone by which he defines himself. Illness is a tyrant with huge territorial ambitions. It is a seductress with large designs. It wants not only the sick person's body. It wants his heart and mind also. It wants to be his all-consuming passion. 
No wonder Jesus once asked a man he meant to heal, "Do you want to get well?" (John 5:6). Maybe the man didn't, strange as it sounds. Maybe his sickness had become his haven, his lover, his overlord. And no wonder Jesus was so responsive to any old beggar or leper or blind man who threw caution to the wind and outright begged for healing. 
Not everyone wants to get well.
It's the most natural thing to befriend your sickness, even, after long association, to depend upon it. Imagine any of the people Jesus heals. Their entire lives--their physical lives, for sure, but also their emotional and intellectual and relational lives--all have taken shape around their injuries or diseases. That man at the pool of Bethesda whom Jesus first asks if he wants to get well, for instance. 
He's been there thirty-eight years. His entire existence has narrowed down to the daily drama of his lifelong suffering: the sores on his undersides, the ghostly sensations flitting along his nerves. He likely has a fermenting resentment toward those whose lot seems a margin better than his own, and a smug disdain toward those whose lot appears slightly worse. At night, sleeping on some narrow cot, he must dream of his place, its people, its shapes, its textures: the old man, rotund and dewlap, stretched across the wet stones, muttering and shaking his heavy jowls; the young girl, rawboned and waxy skinned, with a voice faint as a handrubbing cloth; the sound when the water churns, like big boulders falling at a distance; the sudden billowing at the pool's surface, an eruption of froth and steam, and the tumult of bodies heaving, flailing, lurching, as each rushes to find a place before the others do. 
Thirty-eight years of monotony. Thirty-eight years of futility. Thirty-eight years of self-pity. Thirty-eight years of poisonous envy and secret pride. Thirty-eight years of never being able to work, travel, make love, cook, care for children, or fix an oxcart. Thirty-eight years of life without options. Thirty-eight years of life without obligations. He carries burdens, yes, but one he's never carried is the weight of others' expectations.
For thirty-eight years.
And then Jesus shows up one day and changes all that. One word from Jesus, and all thirty-eight years fall behind the man, vanish in a blink, and a future he stopped daring to imagine stands vivid and solid before him. He can do all the things he never could and ever wanted to do. He can do them here and now--for Jesus' miracle joins healing and therapy in one terse command. Muscles spongy from years of idleness suddenly grow taut and supple. Bones spindly from never bearing the body's full weight turn instantly thick and sturdy. Balance all topsy-turvy from chronic proneness immediately calibrates for walking, running, dancing, leaping.
And now the man can work and pay taxes. And now he can marry and take on domestic responsibilities. And now he can build a home and fix its roof when it leaks and shim the door when it skews crooked. And now he relinquishes the unique status suffering bestows on a man and enters the anonymity that comes with being well. Now he loses the strange privilege of sickness and takes up the everyday obligations of health. He's just like everybody else now. We expect things of him.
Do you want to get well?
Restoration shocks the system. It alters not just our health--it alters our world. All that we establish to placate or indulge or accommodate our sickness disintegrates with those stark words, "Take up your mat, and go."
Do you want to get well?

(From Rest of God, Mark Buchanan)

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