This week was Spring Break on the college campus where I live / work / eat / sleep / and try to minister, and there were BIG hopes resting on seven days without students; mainly hopes for silence and naps and not fighting teenagers for a seat on the comfiest couch. However, I landed in the pharmacy trying to self-medicate a sinus infection, strep, and a double ear infection. You ain’t got nothin’ on me Daytona Beach!
Despite the stuffy head and sore throat and before the rush back to school, one of my dearest friends and I stole away for a 24 hour trip to Nashville. A cute cottage in 12South and an arms-long list of restaurants, bars, pastry shops, and boutiques to visit in tow, we arrived with high expectations for what we could squish into one day. That excitement waned when we saw snow on the ground. SNOW?! It was Tennessee! We still walked and ate and drank and talked till supper time, but then the lure of our warm AirBnB and yoga pants called out with their siren song and we succumbed. By 9pm we had eaten tacos & guac delivered to our door, watched three episodes of Gilmore Girls, and climbed in bed. Seemed like a pretty great getaway, I didn’t need any more nor did I anticipate what waited behind stained glass…
This morning we woke up early and grabbed firepot chais at the Frothy Monkey before we packed out a little white chapel with all the local hipsters. I expected very little of the sermon. (The one time in my life that my expectations have been too low, significantly too low.) The young bearded pastor was bringing it hard from the pulpit and I sat on the literal edge of my folding chair.
“Do you want to get well?”
It was the question Jesus asked the lame man at the pool in Bethesda. A man laying broken amongst other beggars, a crowd of men and women that were blind and deaf and crippled and stricken with lepresy. A man who hadn’t walked in 38 years.
Was Jesus being insensitive? Isn’t the answer painfully obvious? Well, as the pastor unpacked for us so clearly, sometimes the answer isn’t so obvious because when our pain is our identity, oftentimes we don’t want to get well. We start to love our pain. We revel in it. We use it to make people feel sorry for us, or worse – manipulate them so that they can’t confront us or speak truth to us because our identity is one of suffering.
As I sat nauseous with conviction, my favorite passage detailing Abraham’s faith in Romans came to mind and the Holy Spirit connected the dots:
God made Abraham a promise and for decades and decades it sure didn’t come true. Did Abraham present his identity as one who’d been failed by God? He certainly could have. I certainly do. He could’ve mourned and pouted and hollered and cried. He could’ve raised a fist at God and called Him a liar. He had his moments (sleeping with his wife’s handmaiden to find a loophole in God’s promise of an heir definitely counts), but what does the Bible describe?
“In hope against hope he believed … Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.” Romans 4:18-21
Abraham chose to identify in HOPE, hope that didn’t even make sense! He chose to show the world that God is worth trusting and beyond able! Abraham scrubbed the word “hopeless” off of his name tag and wrote in big fat sharpie letters with an exclamation point “HOPE FULL!” In a long season of barrenness and waiting the temptation to play the victim must have been heavy and constantly present… but that stalwart senior citizen chose to believe God was good and that He was worth trusting and that His promises come true.
Maybe my story isn’t one of lame legs or a womb far past it’s prime, but it still involves waiting and wondering. And as I’ve succumbed to pain being, not just part of my story, but the undercurrent of every chapter – how will I respond to a savior that asks “Do you want to get well?”
My prayer tonight for myself and for you is that we cry from the bottom of our lungs “YES!” and wait with eager anticipation for healing from a God worth hoping in. That we move from the crowd of lepers on the side of the pool in love with their pain to fully restored sons & daughters splashing around in healing waters. That we stand unwavering in faith and give glory to God, all the while being fully assured THAT WHAT HE HAS PROMISED HE IS ABLE TO PERFORM.