When I worked in an operating room, there was only one kind of patient we didn’t require a consent form from – medical emergencies. If they were unresponsive, we did all that we could to save their lives (and if they wanted to yell at us for something later, we would take solace in the fact that they were alive to be unhappy with us). Every other patient had to have a consent form on file, and was asked by no less than 3 people what procedure they were there for.
And it’s because we were about to inflict a measure of pain on them in order to heal them. Surgery is inflicting harm on someone for the purpose of healing someone overall. But there is an initial period of pain as the patient recovers.
There is a story in the gospel of John that involves Christ getting the man’s consent to perform a miracle on them (I’m going to call him Tim). Tim had been paralyzed for 38 years when Jesus walks by one day and pauses to ask him one of the most (seemingly) out of touch questions possible:
“Do you want to get well?”
For a long time, that question confused me. You would think that an all-knowing God, who has already healed scores of people, would know the answer to this question. Except Jesus wasn’t asking because He didn’t know the answer. Jesus was asking to make sure Tim knew the answer.
Tim had spent nearly 4 decades in one lifestyle. He had gotten used to begging. He knew the people around him. Tim had gotten used to the life he was living. And even though it wasn’t the nicest life, it was the one Tim had known. And being healed would change that for Tim. He would no longer have the same life he had before.
Christ is making sure that Tim knows that there is a cost to being healed. Tim’s old life will be gone. And it was going to hurt.
If Christians were honest, we’d admit that we don’t always like being a follower of Christ. Sometimes it hurts. I’ve been on this journey for the better part of twenty years now, and there are still times I feel Christ asking me if ‘I want to get well?’
Which implies I’m not well. It implies that I still have room to grow. It implies that something else is yet to come, and it will be difficult. And I think ‘I really wanted to be done with this that first time, when I prayed at the altar.’
But then I remember that I have the best doctor in the world offering to walk me through this healing and recovery process. I remember that I live in a fallen and broken world, which is constantly injuring us, which means we need a great physician. And painful as it may be, in the end, I will be healthier than I was before.