I have gotten a lot better at walking in my six months since the onset of vestibular neuritis. I’m out of the wheelchair, I’m caring for myself and my family again and I can drive to run all the errands I did before. Sometimes I forget I have a problem at all. But I find myself surprised at times to have trouble walking in crowds. I don’t know where to put my feet when a lot of people are around and moving at different paces. My feet slow and fumble. I am waiting for their movements so I can plan mine.
I sat before the Blessed Sacrament to complain and found my mind making a parallel about my physical walking to my emotional and spiritual walking. I find it harder to make decisions around people. I would prefer to see what they are doing before I can decide. I don’t like to rock the boat. I don’t like to be the only one who decides differently.
I can quite literally find myself paralyzed in a tight crowd where I have to walk amid others going in different directions. And this is true emotionally and spiritually too. I don’t enjoy conflict. I literally don’t want to walk and I figuratively don’t want to walk.
Jesus took me to John 5, the story of the paralyzed man cured on the Sabbath. He couldn’t walk. I looked at my feet. I took off my socks and shoes, considering that the other people in the room might think I was a weirdo. But I gave Jesus custody of my feet, my feet that don’t always want to walk.
In my reading, my heart burned as Jesus asked, “Do you want to be well?”
The man in the story responded, “I have no one to take me into the water when the pool is stirred up. And when I do get there, someone else got their first.”
Wrong answer. That isn’t what Jesus asked. Jesus asked, “Do you want to be well?”
Jesus took me on a journey about the question of healing for all sorts of human problems, not just those related to my feet. He highlighted each of the key words in His question: you, want, well.
Do you want to be well? Jesus didn’t ask what the other people were doing. The man immediately blamed everyone else. Those people…they won’t take me to the water. Those people…they keep getting there first. Those people. The man is full of bitterness. But Jesus isn’t asking about “those people.” He is asking the man: Do you want to be well? We can get fixated on everyone else – the spouse, the roommate, the co-worker, the family member, the people of the opposing political party. ‘‘Everything would be better if ‘those people’ would change.’’ “When ‘those people’ change, then I will be better.” But Jesus doesn’t ask about “those people.” Jesus is asking about you.
Do you want to be well? What is your problem? Do you see your problem? Do you know you have any problems? What about you?
Do you want to be well? We sit in our problems and we complain. But actually, many of us love our problems. We don’t know what we’d do without our problems. We don’t really want to forgive that person. They hurt us. So, we wrap ourselves in a blanket of hurt, a blanket that hurts so good. We don’t really want to quit drinking. We know it’s bad. But in the moment, the drinking feels good. We don’t really want to quit complaining. The complaining feels good in the moment. We know it’s bad. But if we were led out of Egypt, maybe we would complain that Egypt actually wasn’t so bad.
Do you want to be well? Are you willing to change? Do you really want to be rid of this problem, deep down? Because we don’t choose sin in all its ugliness. We choose it because we were tempted to believe it did something good for us. We eat more to feel happy, even though we didn’t need the food. We gossip because it makes us feel powerful and connected to the people with whom we are telling stories. We lie because we didn’t want to get into deeper trouble. We have to remember, “the bread of deceit is sweet, but afterward the mouth will be full of gravel (Proverbs 20:17).” Jesus asked, “Do you want to be well?”
Do you want to be well? It’s hard to make a change because you see it turning out so disastrously. You have to confess and tell the truth about that thing you lied about. All you can see is the pain of possible anger and rejection. You have to go on a diet and quit eating all that stuff that isn’t good for you. All you see is the pain of not enjoying that empty thing that briefly made you happy. You have to quit these friends who gossip and mock people. But all you see is the pain of having to stick up for your morals, knowing the group will now gossip about your not wanting to gossip. But Jesus took me through that word “well” and said things are going to turn out even better than we could have imagined. Even if things are difficult in the short run, you are going to be made well. Do you want to be well? The fruit of evil is poison. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, and self-control. All of these are good, signs of wellness.
I looked at my feet. Do I want to be made well? Do I want to walk in those places where I’m not certain about how everyone else will move? Can I tackle those physical ramps any more than I can handle those emotional and spiritual ups and downs? Do I want to walk on uneven surfaces, let alone those bumps of obstacles and difficulties in life?
My physical therapist thinks I need to break the neurological habits of stopping in my tracks, reaching for walls and looking at my feet in distress. Can I really do that, trusting I’m not going to fall? Can I trust that God is going to be there even when I can’t feel Him?
Jesus told me that my difficulties are not because of “those people” in my life who would be easier to blame. I have to ask for grace to “want” to change those things that give me a false comfort and a false pleasure. I have to trust that when Jesus wants to break me from my sins and bad habits that I am going to be well, better than I could have ever imagined.
And maybe then, I will be able to walk – physically, spiritually and emotionally – without any difficulty.
John 5: 8-9 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately, the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.