There's a pattern that emerges throughout the Bible, although we see it most clearly in the four Gospel stories. It's the pattern of what happens when God changes a story. Which is really cool, of course, except that...we never get the whole story.
Men and women, young and old, blind and lame, bleeding and broken make their way to Jesus and are healed. There are a couple of things we need to recognize about this. First, Jesus heals indiscriminately. He doesn't care who you are or what's wrong with you or the stigma that's attached to it or what other people might think of a God who associates with people like you. But (and this is the second point), He only does so when belief is present. That is, you have to believe in Him before He will heal you.
Sometimes, this belief has already been there. In these cases, we see the wounded coming to Christ, seeking Him out, crossing the country and crossing the seas to get to Him. Sometimes, it's in the blink of an eye. It's a moment that's just sort of naturally developing, a woman at a well, perhaps, and Jesus presents the choice. Believe in Me. Then, it's either a yes or no. And what's cool about this is that it doesn't matter how much your voice may be shaking when you say that yes, it's enough. Like the man in the story, it's a confession Lord, I want to believe; help my unbelief. And it's enough.
Then Jesus heals the blind man, and he rejoices in his sight. He walks away, leading himself down the road for the first time in years. Maybe looking back every now and then to see again this Savior, but free to see. Then the paralytic leaps off his mat, picks it up, and dances away, leaping for joy. Then the demon-possessed man dresses himself and sits down to dinner. And life is good. Right?
Anybody that's ever had a powerful encounter with God knows it's not that easy. We wish it was. But here's what you don't see in the Gospel stories: change requires change. It's not so easy as walking away, leaping for joy, and dressing yourself. It's not so easy as I once was blind, but now I see. When one thing changes, everything changes. Most of us, by now, understand this. And what changes most powerfully, and most dramatically, is what you believe about God.
That's hard. For me, it's...scary. You have this idea of God and it's the very thing that drives you to Him (or draws you to Him), and that means you have found in your life some reasonable semblance of faith. You have some way that things work out, some understanding and relationship that allows you to believe enough in God to go to Him. What's weird is that it is so often the case that it is brokenness itself that makes this relationship possible. Think about it. You came to God because you needed Him. That's how most of us got here. There was an emptiness, a nagging, a brokenness upon which the foundation of our faith was built. Because we needed a bigger, better, believable God to handle it.
Now, say that God heals that wound. Do you wonder if you can ever find Him again?
I do. The deeper I get into the wilderness, the longer I walk on the path God is leading me on, the closer I get to Him and to that very thing He's created in me, the more I wrestle with this. Because the closer I get, the clearer it becomes that depravity is the foundation of my faith. I'm not saying it should be, but let's be honest here. It is. And I don't think I'm alone in that. It's this fallen world, this broken spirit, this wounded heart that has come to define how I see God. How I find Him. How I come to Him. Why I, with shaky voice, believe when He says He wants to do bigger things.
And yet, the bigger things God wants to do are healing things. He wants the blind to see. He wants the lame to walk. He wants the demon cast out and the flesh healed and the ears opened and the bleeding to stop. He wants to take the very thing that makes you so desperately need Him...and He wants to heal it.
It's necessary, of course. No true relationship can ever be based on need; it is only without such need that we are free to truly love Him. But from the inside looking out, the question hangs heavy: can I love God when I don't need Him? Or more specifically, will I love God when I don't need Him?
So it's hard. You think you know God; that's why you come to Him. He offers to give you the very thing you most need, the answer to the question you arrived with. That's what you thought you wanted. And yet, if ever He actually does, if ever you let Him, you understand how little you knew of Him in the first place and you find yourself in this awkward place of trying to learn to know Him again. Trying to learn to love Him again. Trying to learn to believe in Him again. Or...trying to remember to know, to love, to believe.
It's very precarious, as the flesh sees it, this relationship with God. It is designed to change and yet, it is already precious. Could it be more precious? Less? Is the heart strong enough to keep longing when it is satisfied? That is the question, isn't it? It is. And the answer isn't easy.
I'm going to be working through this one for several days, so stay tuned.