read John 5. We all know people who don’t seem to want to get well. We turn the corner the moment we catch sight of the determined glaze in their eyes, but they sprint after us. They begin reciting their problems before we can even explain how desperately we’re needed at the dentist. Whether it’s their manipulative ex, their interfering mother-in-law, their cruel step-mother, their demanding boss or their ungrateful children, they have a problem and they need for us to hear about it. Sometimes it’s not other people that’s their problem, it’s a medical condition – or inordinate hair loss, a leaky roof, or a lemon of a car. It’s easy to spot bitterness in other people. But as with most of the problems other people have, there are areas of bitterness, hurt and negative thinking lurking inside of all of us that we CLING to, unable to imagine life without them.
If you don’t believe me, here’s my own “ah ha” moment from, well, last night. I was watching Joyce Meyer’s tv show on forgiveness, thinking, “la dee dah, I KNOW all this already. Yes, yes, when we hold onto a hurt and refuse to forgive others, we’re only hurting ourselves. Duh. I can think of 20 people who really need to be watching this show, but I’m not one of them.”
Then Joyce Meyer said, “after you’ve been hurt, many people say, ‘I’ll never trust again.'” Okay, so that struck a little closer to home. I leaned forward. Joyce Meyer said that when we do that: “we’re trying to make the rest of the world pay for what one person did to us.”
My kitchen floor seemed to disappear, leaving a black hole around me instead. Was it possible Joyce Meyer was right? Was it possible that thinking you couldn’t trust anyone again stemmed from the sin of unforgiveness? Was I holding onto unforgiveness, just like all those other people whose bitterness I can spot a mile away? Was I trying to punish people who had hurt me by thinking, deep down, so deep down I hadn’t even known I was doing it: ha ha! Look at what you’ve done to me!! Are you happy NOW????
The answer that was trembling all around me in the kitchen air was yes. And it was clear that the person I was choosing hardest not to forgive was myself.
The scary part is that even when we do become aware of the negative thinking that riddles our days WE’RE STILL STUCK. Seriously. Do I want to get better? Yes, of course. Now that I’ve seen it. But how? How do you forgive yourself for letting other people hurt you? How do you forgive people who’ve hurt you? How do you let go – and go sauntering out into the sunshine, ready to trust and trust and trust again, knowing that to love means to be hurt, and whoop-de-doo, I don’t mind being hurt because God can keep right on healing me?
I know the theological answer. We can forgive because God forgives us. I even know the deeper theological answer. Forgiveness is so impossible for us humans that it requires flinging ourselves at the throne of God and saying: HELP ME!!!!!!!!
Okay, fine. “God help me forgive everyone who has hurt me. Help me forgive myself.”
Foof. There. Done. Glad that’s over with.
But is it? Did it really work? Am I now ready to trust again? Because here is where I realize I am completely stuck. Here is where I begin to see that when I condemn the lame man in John 5 whom Jesus asks, “do you want to get well?” I am condemning myself. Here is where I start to have empathy with the lame man in the story – and with everyone else who is stuck, all those people I am tempted to run from. Because, well, in a certain sense, no, I probably don’t want to get well. Why SHOULD I trust again? Honestly – I’ll just get hurt again. And I’m not to be trusted. I must have bad judgment. And why should I have a happy life – don’t I want everyone who hurt me to know what a JERK they are? So, Jesus, now what are you going to do with me? I’m lame. And I don’t believe I’ll ever be anything but lame. So what can Jesus do with a lame person who knows she’s lame, wants to run again, but can’t do what it takes to get unlame – forgive, let go, and trust God to take care of the rest?
Everything. Because here is the really strange thing. Here is one of the reasons I even write this scary, let-it-all-hang-out blog that goes springing out into the black hole called THE WORLD WIDE WEB every time I press the “Publish” button on my website. Because the very act of admitting my inadequacy somehow opens me up to God’s healing.
I’m feeling better already. Why? Because the place where our hearts break is the place where Christ comes in. Because I am admitting I’m just as pathetic as the lame man who moans and whines in this story. I have empathy with him and all the other lame people in this world. Here is, perhaps, why Jesus asks us to forgive others as we are forgiven. In admitting our kinship with others, the healing begins. That lame whining man who lived 2,00 years ago is my brother. He was so lame he didn’t even know who Jesus was; the authorities, out to catch Jesus for having the audacity to heal on the Sabbath, asked him who had made him better and he had to admit he had no idea. John 5:13. Hold it. A lame man full of self-pity, who didn’t know who Jesus was, got healed?
Yes. And God will do the same for each of us. There in the thick of our dumbest, stupidest, most persistent faults, wrong-thinking, self-pity and negativity, God comes wading in and offers us a hand.
The Good News is that we don’t have to “trust” other people; Jesus didn’t. We don’t have to trust ourselves. Jesus didn’t; He knew human nature. John 2:24. We just have to trust God – the way the lame man trusted Jesus without even knowing who He was. In other words, it doesn’t take theological know-how. It doesn’t require kneeling in the right way, lighting the right candle, or saying the right words. We don’t have to memorize Bible verses, or be able to explain the difference between Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Jesus says in this chapter that Moses was writing about Jesus, and that all of Scripture “point” to Jesus, but the lame man didn’t invoke any Scripture or analyze Moses. John 5:39 and 46. We don’t have to have our act together. We don’t have to have banished self-pity. We just need to listen to the voice of God.
Can we trust the voice of God?
Let me put it this way – to myself as much as anyone else. Can we trust the voice of love? Can we trust the God who suffered death for each of us? Can I trust God?
Okay, okay. Fine.
Sometimes, the healing begins as simply as that. Sometimes it begins with that grudging smile, that acknowledgement that maybe, just maybe, our way isn’t the best way. There’s hope in truth. The life we want, the life of joy and freedom and peace no matter what our circumstances, begins when we start to honestly tell God our problems. We can go ahead and whine away to Him. God already knows all the bad junk inside us. He just wants us to know it, too, because only then can He set us free of it. Only then can we start to live the life we really want. Okay, okay. Fine. I’ll choose joy. Twist my arm.
posted by Caroline Coleman on Good Friday, 2012