In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
Do we want to be healed, say, of our greed or bad moods? I’m not quite sure. Being healed includes changes and sacrifices.
Do you want to get well? It seemed such an obvious question. Jesus once met a man who had been a paralytic for 38 years – and asked if he wanted to get healed. Well, of course. Or not?
The question did not feel as obvious when I remembered the three days I spent in the hospital after a kidney crisis some years ago. It was horrible – the first six hours. But once the pain was gone, those were comfortable days, actually. I read and rested.
People brought food to my bed. Friends wrote saying they love me. The problems of life vanished; after all, I had to focus on getting well. When Sarah came to visit me, she handed me our six-month-old, lied on the bed, and started eating my food.
The nurse complained; “hey, he’s the sick one!” I told him not to bother; she was worse off than me. If they had told me I must have stayed an extra day or two at the hospital, I wouldn’t have complained.
Do we want to be healed, say, of our greed or bad moods? I’m not quite sure. Being healed includes changes and sacrifices. We would have to let go of some habits and acquire some new ones – trade self-commiseration for responsibility, for instance. Once we settle into a posture for years, it is hard to let it go.
A metaphor by C. S. Lewis may help here.
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
That’s a good image of the spiritual life, isn’t it? We want to be become … acceptable, decent. We want a minor adjustment here, another there, just some tweaking, the minimum necessary.
But God doesn’t want acceptable people; he wants extraordinary people. He’s molding wise, joyous, loving, self-giving saints. And if we say yes to him, that’s what we’re in for. Nothing less.
Do you want to get well? Count the cost, bro. Christianity isn’t for the faint-hearted. You’re in for some major surgery. Rebirth, actually.