Step 7: Humbly ask God to remove our flaws and shortcomings.
I’ve long been curious with the interactions in the Bible between Jesus and people who want/need to be healed. But there is one particular story that has always fascinated me. It took place between Jesus and the man at the healing pool of Bethesda in John chapter 5.
This man was physically impaired (lame) and had been for 38 years. At some point in his life he made his way to the healing pool at Bethesda in hopes of being healed. Evidently when the waters of the pool were “stirred,” people would get in and they would be healed. His physical affliction was so bad that he couldn’t make his way into the water and to the point that we meet him, he is still lame.
When Jesus meets this man and learns of his story, he asks him a simple, yet profound question: “Do you want to be made well?” The man hints at saying yes, but explains his predicament about not being able to enter the healing waters of the pool. I think it’s really important to distinguish between Jesus’ question, and the man’s response.
The question Jesus poses is not just about physical healing, it’s about his entire life and (maybe more importantly) the community of people all around him. The man probably thinks this is just about his physical body, and and responds accordingly. And why wouldn’t he think this way? He’s been disabled his entire life and likely feels like he is of little to no use in society (invalid).
The reason this story is so fascinating to me is that we don’t see the difficult work that comes after his body is healed. When something is healed in us, it takes a tremendous amount of work to reorient our lives to a new way of living.
This man had been disabled for his entire life. He didn’t know how to work as an able bodied man. He didn’t know how to walk, run, lift with his legs, or be a functioning member of his community. He likely didn’t have a trade or a skill that had been developed in his adulthood. He was described as an “invalid” — a forgettable man.
So what does it really mean to “be made well”? Here are two things I want to suggest as you consider what the healing you and your marriage need.
First, being made well is not a simple or easy solution to a fixable problem. We fix objects, not people. It is a process of healing that requires a willingness and openness to other parts of your life and your marriage that need to change. This healing process can and will change your entire life, not just parts of it. The man got up and left his place by the pool and went off into a world that he didn’t know. Instead of looking up at people, he was now looking face to face with people. That alone is a monumental shift in his life as he had emotional and relational work to do to match his new physical ability and stature.
Your healing, or being made well, is not a destination. There is no finish line in the healing process. Expecting or living as though there is one will make all the pain you experience more significant, and your suffering deeper. Pain in this life is not optional, but suffering is. We suffer because we attempt to fix or escape the pain, and that might be a big reason why your marriage has been so difficult.
Secondly, being made well is not just about you and/or your spouse. It is about the entire community, and ultimately the entire world. After this man is healed, we find out that it was the Sabbath. Jesus could have healed him on any day of the week, so why on the Sabbath day? I think it’s because he wanted this particular act of healing to be an invitation to others in this man’s community to be healed themselves.
It’s easy to see someone disabled as the unfortunate one, or the one who is in the most need. Their brokenness is on full display for everyone to see. It’s difficult to see the brokenness of the wealthy, powerful, and physically able people. I think Jesus wanted to expose the arrogance and self-righteousness in the hearts of others by healing this man on the Sabbath. So, it’s possible that your healing is not yet taking place because it’s not the “Sabbath day” today. The people that need the healing might not yet be ready to have their power, control, or abilities exposed.
When we humbly ask God for healing in this step, our posture of humility invites us to let go of when, how, and who the healing is for. Humility is relinquishing authority and control of our inabilities or disabilities (physical, emotional, relational, mental, spiritual). Perhaps one of the biggest questions from all the acts of healing that Jesus performed is why he chose to walk past those who were begging or asking for his healing touch. What does healing look like for these people if they don’t get the healing they want? For you, this might be the question of why your afflictions aren’t being healed or made well.
I wonder if we too quickly ask for healing when we really haven’t done the work to know really what we’re asking for. Sometimes I think we all want to be fixed and made whole with some anesthesia given to us, and I think that might be part of why we don’t experience more healing. Maybe our request for help is more of a demand or a request with strings attached. Which really isn’t a request for help, that’s a request to be made comfortable. And in this stage of the 12-step process, comfort is a huge threat to doing the work.
Taking the Step
Look at your list of flaws and shortcomings from step 6. On your own, pray through each individual character trait and flaw that you wrote down. Humbly ask God for help. After you’ve completed this on your own, let your spouse know that you’re ready and able to share and pray together what items are on your list. When you’re both ready, share and pray through it together.
Of note: Often times I see couples struggle with judging the “completeness” of each others work. It’s not uncommon for one person to have a list of 15+ character flaws, and their spouse has less than 5. Continue to keep your eyes on yourself, and if you find yourself growing in resentments or pain, consider what character trait this might be illuminating for you, and walk yourself through the steps again. Progress not perfection.
What was difficult for you about this step?
Why is it hard to ask for help?
Do you have any strings attached to your request for help or healing?