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“One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:5-6 NIV)
Friend to Friend
Five-year-old Brooke was sitting in the backseat of a minivan while her mom and I ran errands. “Mommy,” she asked, “Is it worse to pick a scab or pick a mosquito bite?”
“You shouldn’t be picking at either one.” her mom replied.
I glanced back at Brooke as she tried to wipe away the bloody evidence that she’d done both.
Little girls aren’t the only ones who pick at scabs. We do it all the time. Maybe we don’t pick at the brown crusty scabs that form over a flesh wound preventing the skin underneath to heal. But many times we pick at the bitter rusty scabs that form over a soul-wound, not allowing the heart to heal.
Barbara (not her real name) was such a woman. Her face bore the lines and creases of a woman dragging around years of bitterness and regret. She didn’t bear beautiful scars that reflected God’s story of redemption; but rather soul seeping wounds she determinedly picked at and decisively refused to let heal.
Barbara was raised in a “religious” home, the youngest of twelve children. He father drank heavily and made sport of belittling his children and his wife. Her insecure mom always seemed to be tiptoeing through life, and did little to protect her kids from her menacing husband. When Barbara’s dad forced his daughters to parade in front of him in their underwear, her mom remained fearfully silent.
Barbara’s dad told his twelve children that the first four were planned, but the rest were accidents. She was an accident.
To save time, many of Barbara’s siblings took baths together. She remembers her older brother molesting her with inappropriate touching in the bathtub. Several years later, she repeated the behavior by touching a younger neighbor in the same way. And for thirty-three years, Barbara picked at the scabs of shame and bitterness and refused God’s invitation to heal them.
I talked with Barbara for a long time as she recounted her story to me. I reassured her of God’s full forgiveness and underserved grace. I pointed out redemptive Bible verses right there in black and white, and some in red. We talked about the necessity of forgiving those who have wronged us, and forgiving ourselves for those we have wronged. We talked about letting go of the past and moving forward in the present. We talked about the truth that when we come to Christ, we become a new creation, the old is gone and the new has come. After about an hour, I realized that we weren’t getting anywhere.
“I hear what you’re saying,” she said, “but I just can’t forgive myself for what I’ve done, and I can’t forgive my dad for making me this way.”
Friend, hear me on this. This is important. It wasn’t that Barbara couldn’t forgive her dad or herself; it was that she wouldn’t forgive her dad or herself. It wasn’t that she couldn’t leave the past behind; it was that she wouldn’t leave the past behind. And as long as she continued rehearsing the misdeeds in the theater of her mind, she would never be free.
As long as she saw herself as the star of the show who was oh so wronged, but oh so right, there would never be final a curtain call for the story to end. Like a child who continues to pick at a scab, Barbara continued to pick at the scabs of her life, never giving them a chance to heal.
And Jesus said to the lame man who had been lying by the pool for 38 years, and to me, and to you: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6 NIV).
I don’t know about you, but more than anything I want to live free of bitterness, resentment, shame and condemnation. So when God says to me, “Do you want to get well,” my answer is always yes. But that means I have to cooperate by forgiving those who’ve hurt me and forgiving myself…to stop picking at the emotional scab and let it go.
Let’s decide to do that today!
God, I’ll admit that I sometimes pick at emotional scabs. I replay what was done and how it was done. I don’t want to do that any longer. I want to get up off my emotional mat, get up, and walk in freedom. Today I forgive ________ for _________, and will no longer hold the offense against the offender. I also accept your forgiveness for my sin of __________, and will no longer live in shame and condemnation.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Go back and read John 5:1-14. What changes would the man have to make in his life if he were healed?
Did the man ever say that he wanted to get well?
Why do you think we sometimes would rather stay emotionally unhealthy rather than get well?
What changes would we have to make in our lives if let go of past offenses and past shame?
It sounds like He wanted to be healed, but his disability prevented him from getting into the pool. Someone else would get in the pool before him. Apparently, he wasn’t able to move fast enough.
There may be an inability to express one’s self or a lake of trusting anyone on the outside.
John 5: 5-9 There was a certain man there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus noticed him lying there [helpless], knowing that he had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 The invalid answered, “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am coming [to get into it myself], someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up; pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man was healed and recovered his strength, and [c]picked up his pallet and walked.