The day after the holiday gift giving, relatives and lots and lots of good food, our house was filled with remnants. Random pieces of brightly-colored paper were adhered to tables and hiding under chairs. We have two refrigerators, and both were filled to capacity with viable leftovers. Toys were everywhere as the children moved excitedly from one to another. 

Our house replicates my end-of-year life. Some behaviors need to be restored to their proper perspective. Others need to be taken out to the trash cans. Still others need to be cleaned up and changed in 2020. 

But first, am I really ready to change in the New Year?  

In the book of John chapter 5, Jesus was at a healing pool where a great number of sick people congregated daily. He saw a certain man there and said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” This seems a strange question to ask a man who has been an invalid for nearly 40 years, but Jesus never asked a foolish question in his life. He was checking the man’s readiness. 

This man had been a beggar who lived off the pity of others. If he was healed, he would lose his entire livelihood.

Sometimes when I have trouble going to sleep, watching “Dr. Phil” helps. He says that personal change only happens when it is preceded by insight and we are ready. We must first have the ability to see and understand why we do the things we do and courageously see ourselves without distortion. Change will not occur until we admit there is a problem. 

Can we honestly say, “I am so sick to death of this that I will not put up with it for another second, for another minute of another hour of another day. I don’t care how scary it is. I don’t care what’s on the other side. I will not put up with this for another second. I will change, and I don’t care what it takes?” 

That’s when we are ready to change.

Healing meant the man next to the pool would be venturing into the unknown. He would lose his present securities and he would have to be responsible for himself. To be healed meant to enter a completely new life, one with wonderful possibilities, but also with a certain amount of risk.

Lots of people are just like him. They are paralyzed by bitterness, unforgiveness and selfishness. Their lives are dysfunctional, but they choose not to consider that God might have something more for them. They have learned to live in complacency and no longer even call out to God because sickness is their normal. 

When confronted with the possibility of healing, people often resort to excuses. The man in John’s gospel did. 

“Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but when I am coming, another steps down before me,” he said. 

In today’s language, he saw himself as a victim. Infirmity wasn’t his fault. Healing was outside his control. But maybe, just maybe he had reached Dr. Phil’s state of readiness. 

Jesus did not discuss the pool or its alleged abilities to provide a cure. He simply told the man, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 

The man had a choice. He could ignore the possibility and make excuses, or he could listen and obey. We cannot mature into the likeness of Jesus if we refuse to look at our condition and continue to make excuses for why God doesn’t heal our lives. 

The man chose to act and was healed.  

Is this your year for change? 

•••

Sylvia Peterson is a former co-pastor for Bald Hill Community Church and an author. She and her husband are chaplains for the Bald Hills Fire Department. You can email her at sylviap7@comcast.net.

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