As I left Kmart this afternoon, I was very harshly scolded by a woman I did not know and whom I’d never met prior to this moment. She laid into me with a fair amount of intensity, because I didn’t politely hold the door for her as I exited the store.
The conversation that ensued was not a brief one, because she was insistent on not accepting my apology, and instead focused like a laser-beam on explaining to me that I am an insensitive, unaware, discourteous boob. Having told her I was very sorry, and that I didn’t realize she was behind me, she was quick to point out that I would have realized it if I had taken the time to look behind me, which is what people who understand common courtesy do, and I’m clearly not one of those people.
This woman had a chip on her shoulder the size of Nebraska. She was deeply embittered about her life for reasons unknown to me, and I just happened to be in her gun sites at a time that, for her, was particularly dissatisfying. The truth of the matter is, as I was leaving Kmart, my mind was occupied with the young crippled girl standing alone by the curb in front of the store. I wondered why she was there by herself. As it turned out, the young girl was my assailant’s daughter.
The whole encounter reminded me of the man Jesus encountered in John 5. The encounter took place by a pool in Jerusalem called Bethesda, around which large crowds of people would congregate. On occasion, an angel of the Lord would stir the pool’s waters, and the first person into the water would be healed of whatever ailed them.
When Jesus spoke to the man, his question was rather abrupt, and seemingly foolish. Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well?” Duh!! Of course he wants to get well. Why else is he here by the pool of Bethesda? Maybe the question is rhetorical, kind of like the way we ask “How’s it going” when we truly have very little interest in how it’s going. We just need an opening line and that’s as good as any. Or perhaps the question Jesus opened with is not so silly as I’m proposing. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the man has been lying by this pool for 38 years! It is difficult to believe that in 38 years of lying by this pool, the man couldn’t find some way to be the first one into the water. “Why are you still lying here? Do you even want to get well?”
In response to Jesus question, the man does not answer what Jesus asked, but instead says, “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.” Staring his infirmity right in the face, this man cannot rise above a pathetic whine about what someone else did not do for him. No one held the Kmart door for him. He can’t get to the water. It’s someone else’s fault that my life is miserable. “Adam, why did you eat the fruit?” “Well, God, that woman you gave me…” “Eve, why did you eat the fruit?” “Well, God, you see, the serpent said…”
My life is what I make of it. My circumstances are nothing more than the threads I use to weave my tapestry. I can be intentional and creative, and weave something beautiful, or I can whine and moan, looking outside myself to find excuses for the ugly mess I’ve created. The choice is mine. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:12, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,” and that is a secret all of us would do well to learn.
Victoriously in Christ!