No ambition comes without a little dose of fear. A fear that things may not work out like we want them to. A fear that our relationship will inevitably crumble or that a job we want will go to someone else. A fear that time spent attaining a goal will prove to be futile. A fear of bringing up an issue, or telling someone how we really feel but we don’t out of fear of rejection. We have all been at one time or another, afraid to fail. However, what would it look like if everything did work out exactly how we wanted? What if failure was impossible and that it literally couldn’t happen. Would we want that? At times I wonder, if it is the fear of failure I am afraid of, or is it the fear of Success?
In the gospel of John there is an account when Jesus is entering the city of Jerusalem for a feast and he encounters a very sick man. We do not know this man’s particular illness but we do know that he had a mat, which implies he could not walk and was in some way disabled. The Word says that he had been in this condition for 38 years. Jesus finds this man lying beside a pool. In first century Jewish culture, water was symbolic of purity. Jews would dip in and out of the water repeatedly throughout the day if they had touched something unclean or even spoke to someone who wasn’t Jewish. The water also was believed to have healing powers. The disabled and sick were outcasts so they would wait by these waters all day for their chance to get in, in hopes of being healed.
I imagine that this man had endured large amounts of pain and body ache if he was unable to walk or move well for thirty eight years. I would imagine that he would like nothing more than to be rid of this horrible plague that had crippled his life. That’s what I would imagine. I think it’s fascinating that someone knew that this man had been sick for such a long time. For someone to know that meant he had to have been a regular at the pool.There must have been a culture of people there talking about who had been healed that day and who hadn’t; Expressing frustration at the new guy for butting in and taking the good seat. I can hear conversations regarding the latest trends in water healing technology. This man had friends there, people knew him there, he was a somebody there. His mat not only served him with a sense of community but also a sense of identity. When you think about it, was the mat that bad?
I began to wonder if I could say the same about my life, Do I have any mats? Do I Places in my life where I had not only accepted mediocrity but had grown quite fond of it? Or was I truly striving for greatness? A mat can be detrimental because it is comfortable. Choosing comfort over passion will always lead to pain. It’s always easier to talk about things instead of doing them. Why get out of a bad relationship when I can just keep finding new people to talk about it with? If I got out of it, who would I talk to, and what would I ever talk about? What would I have in common with my friends if I just lost the weight and stopped complaining about my health? Would they resent that? If I saved my money I wouldn’t be broke anymore, but hey my family is broke, and I don’t want them to look at me differently. Before we know it, we can become spectators, watching everyone with envy living their lives. What does your mat look like?
Jesus finds the man sitting there. Due to the fact that the man had been sick for 38 years, and he was at the pool of water diligently seeking health, I figured Jesus would touch him instantly and say “be healed!” But Jesus says first, “ Do you want to be healed?” what Jesus? Of course he wants to be healed! He’s here every day, he has a mat, he is in pain, help him out!!!
Jesus’ question is so much deeper though.
For this man, being healed meant he couldn’t talk about the same things anymore. He couldn’t speculate about what being healed may or may not look like one day. He wouldn’t be able to hang out with his sick friends any longer. He would no longer be able to complain about his current health status. Healed meant change. Healed meant something totally different. It meant a new life. It meant getting off the mat.
A couple of years ago I was playing college basketball. The year prior to that season I had seriously hurt my back and was quite frankly in denial as to the severity of my injury. I thought I had practiced hard, and that I was fully prepared to go out and not only compete but make an impact. The first game we were scheduled to play USC. A dream come true for any player. I couldn’t wait. I shot more shots than I could count in preparation for the game. I warmed up well beforehand , felt lose, felt ready, let’s do work! I sat patiently and waited my turn to sub in. 10 minutes go by, “ok no big deal I thought”. First subs check in, “its alright, ill get in on the next rotation”. I never did. I spent all 40 minutes on the bench. Angry was an understatement. I was livid, I remember throwing off my jersey, yelling in the shower, and venting to my parents. I was outraged. 1 game turned into 2, and 2 games turned into 4. I had become a bench warmer. After the anger subsided I just began to feel sadness. I felt like I failed. I began to speak to my bench sitting comrades with failure language. I began to think failure thoughts . My joy as a basketball player was reduced to finding the best seat on the bench, and if I was lucky- they were padded. In the beginning I would just think to myself, coach put me in! I can get us on track, I can help us out there. As time went on however, I began to question if I could help at all. I began to think I could potentially even hurt our team if I was on the floor, and surrounded myself with people who thought the same. I didn’t even want to play anymore. I had let the bench become my mat. Even if coach did put me in at crunch time, how could I have performed well? My confidence had been reduced to nothing, I had forgotten who I was and what I could do. As time went on, it became easier to just worry about getting a good seat on the bench instead of striving to become a better player. I liked my mat.
“Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asks him. The man answers, “ Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me”
Does this language sound familiar?
Jesus doesn’t respond to the man’s answer, instead he says “ Get up! Pick up your mat and walk”.
It’s interesting that Jesus told him to pick it up, rather than leave it there. Maybe he said this, so the man wouldn’t go back to it 😉
Do we really want to turn our mediocre situation into a great one? If the answer is “yes”, it won’t be easy, it would mean change is coming. Some old habits would have to break and new ones will have to be inaugurated. Time is so precious, Do whatever it takes to get off the mat, and experience the life you know you want to have.
Questions to think about:
What does my mat look like?
If failure weren’t an option, what would my life look like?