Do you want to be well?
We want love and peace with meat on the bones.
Jesus asked a lot of questions. Sometimes this is wonderful, sometimes those questions are annoying and inconvenient before it is wonderful. But in one particular story,1 he encounters a man who is sick at a pool. And before helping him, he simply asks, “Do you want to be well?” The story itself is a beautiful and layered one on its own, of course, but good gracious, that question from Jesus? Those are the six words which have been loitering with intent around my soul.
For a few years there, I found myself asking that question a lot.2 As I embarked on quiet healing journeys for my body and my soul, it was the question that I carried with me. It was the portal I entered on the days when healing was costing me the survival life I had numbed myself into. It was the jolt out of complacency and good-enough-I-guess settling. It was the question that pushed back against my despair and sloth, my this-is-just-the-way-it-is resignation.
I started over again and again and again, choosing hope like a discipline and a habit.
It became an open door of invitation, the light of day waiting on the other side, inviting my agency and stubborn participation and kindness.
I asked it on the days when being well meant actively making choices that were imperfect and difficult, filled with the sort of conflict that comes with peacemaking. It was the question that helped me to wake up to my own life, because it turned out that before I could begin to be well, I had to acknowledge, even embrace my own small agency. I found transformation at that intersection of my small choices and the mountain-moving love of God. I needed the imagination for healing.
“Well” doesn’t look like how I thought it would look, let alone how I was over-promised that it would look by experts and prosperity preachers and affirmation scripts. (What a mercy.) But it began to be well with my soul again in a quiet, faithful, patient way.
“Do you want to be well?”
I’ll be honest with you, I have felt like if Jesus came to us as a generation right this blessed minute and asked that question - do you want to be well? - we wouldn’t know how to answer it.
Do we want to be well? Maybe?
What will it cost me? What will it cost us?
What will it demand? Hmmmm…that? My comfort? my complacency? my community? my sense of belonging? my time? money? old beliefs? power? heart?
What kind of “well” do you mean?
So not really, Jesus.
There’s money to be made, elections to win, mobs to incite, zero sum games to perform, scapegoats to select, strings to pull, stock markets to navigate, powerful lobbies at work, patterns to repeat, history to ignore, arguments to dominate.
Jesus, Jesus, what even is being well for us right now?
There are a lot of institutions, powers, principalities, and yes, evil that benefit from us giving up hope. They lick their chops at our despair and work to make us feel powerless. To keep us in the cycle of outrage and ineffective complacency. To fool us into thinking that there is no possibility of healing, our small agency isn’t enough, our voices don’t count, our community too divided. There are whole factions of our culture that not only don’t want to be well, they profit off of our communal sickness.
It is always worthwhile to ask, who benefits from the misery and despair and resignation? Who benefits from good people giving up?
This morning, yet another community is living with the familiar tragedy, grief, horror, and impact of the world’s sickness, choking the life out of us. We already know there will be another story tomorrow. And another. God, we’re so sick. We’ve been sick for so long, we can’t fathom anything different.
And Jesus keeps asking us, “do you want to be well?”
God, I want us to say yes.
Yes, we want to be well. We yearn for it. Our babies are crying out for it. We need the imagination for healing. We want to be well - we want our children to live and not die, we want our teachers safe, we want the vulnerable protected, we want healthcare, we want clean water and native trees, we want women to walk home in safety, we want assault rifles beaten into plowshares, we want wrongs made right. We want reasonable goodness for ourselves and our neighbours, our kids and dammit, for everyone else’s kids, too. We want love and peace with meat on the bones. We want healing, we want compassion, we want we want we want to be well. We want the transformation that we still believe is possible at that intersection of our best choices and the mountain-moving love of God.
The question can be a portal we step through. Do we want to be well?
If yes, well, we will wrestle hope like a habit and a discipline.
We will choose love over fear.
We will lean into the conflict that comes with peace making.
We will speak the truth even if our voice shakes.
We’ll show up for the unsexy daily work of mutual liberation.
We’ll choose curiosity and compassion and accountability. We’ll pray and protest, care about policy and possibility.
We will choose imperfect progress and unlikely alliances, new paths and ancient wisdom, mundane labour and bold choices, because we are invited to participate in the healing and repair of the world. We’ll step through the portal of our collective “yes.”
Do we want to be well? God, I hope so.
God, when you ask us, "Do you want to be well?" help us to say yes, right from the centre of our doubt and fear and despair. When you ask us, "do you want to be well?" would you give us the vision of what is possible, of what we hope for? Give us a glimpse of your dream for this world. Help us hold that light in our heart, tend it like a flame that disrupts darkness. Your invitation to participate in making things right is scary and beautiful. Help us to show up for our work to do. Give us courage for the daily agency of transformation. Guard our hearts against despair. Keep us kind and stubborn. We want to be well, God, we long for all of us to be well. Let's get to work. Amen.
And in case you missed these recent Field Notes:
Evolving Faith News! (for everyone)
I've known revival: Or, This is probably not actually about Asbury (for everyone; audio version for paid subscribers)
This story is in John 5. It’s well-established I’m not over my habit of taking lines from scripture as an out-of-context personal invitation. #SorryNotSorry