It’s been well over a month since the world shut down and we all learned what quarantine means – though how we choose to handle it differs wildly. Some people have stayed glued to their TV’s and news feeds, counting the daily numbers of sick, recovered, and reported cases, some have taken the time to re-engage with their family, start a new hobby, or catch up on a good book. Almost all of us have learned how to Zoom, Skype, Hangout, and video call looking our best (from the waist up).
But one common factor stays with us in this time of lock-down. We seek human interaction. We need connection. We’re all waiting for life to return to normal. We’re all praying for a miracle.
The idea of feeling untouchable, alone and ostracized from others didn’t start in 2020. During Christ’s time, diseases like leprosy ravaged the country, the infected were shunned and given a wide berth. The sick resorted to begging and became the eyesore within ancient Jerusalem’s pristine walls. Other illnesses plagued the people as well, blindness, lameness, deformity – all were lifelong maladies that limited one’s opportunities and stifled one’s hope for a better future.
Whether you were diseased or disabled, you had only one chance for recovery – an act of God. Ironically enough, the people of Christ’s time saw a common miracle take place just outside Jerusalem’s walls. The Bible records the pool of Bethesda as being near the “Sheep Gate” of the city. Built to offer refreshment for man and animal alike, a legend arose that an angel would stir the water, and the first person to enter the pool would be healed of any sickness. It was the lottery of hope so many people wanted.
The ruins of the Bethesda pool in Jerusalem.
“Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered porches. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.” John 5:2-4
Though the Bible doesn’t record his name, we know one paralyzed man had waited for his miracle cure for over 38 years. Imagine a personal quarantine of 38 years with no end in sight? And though he struggled to make it to the pool, others always beat him to the waters. He was left feeling hopeless, he was waiting for a miracle that would never come.
Jesus pushed past his depression, broke down his hopelessness and re-attuned his eyes to what was possible when he told the man, stand and walk. No pool was needed. No miracle cure was given. The man simply had to trust God’s promise and take the first step.
How often do we do the same thing? How often do we pray for a miracle in our lives, with our careers, relationships, our futures and then sit glumly down and wait for God to do the heavy lifting?
It’s easy to see challenges in our lives as barriers that can only be broken by the work of others, instead of seeing them as opportunities to overcome and meet a need in others lives and our own. A term several life coaches utilize is “messy action” – taking a step toward meeting your goals, reaching others, and living your best possible life by just moving forward, without an ideal plan in place.
Jesus didn’t tell the man – “bathe in the waters, get a cane, be sure you know where you’re going, make a list, do a risk analysis, have all your ducks in a row – he said, “Get up and walk”. And as Christ healed more people he continually did so by connecting with them. Whether they were a leper, disabled, or even on their deathbed, he got close to them, he saw a need and gave of himself, without any expectation of reciprocity. People saw that. People connected to him because of that. And when we take an imperfect step forward to making our lives better, when we reach out and offer connection, care and service to others without a benefit in sight – God honors that.
So during this time of isolation – think on how you can move forward in your life without leaving your home. Imagine what you can offer others without expectations or strings attached. Find opportunities in the challenge, shine some light in the darkness. Stand up and step forward in faith, and watch what God will do.