Sitting by the pool of Bethesda

“I am worthy of love even when someone is not able to give it to me.”

On Saturday February 20, I read the Gospel of John, meditating on Jesus’s cure of the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9). Little did I know how important this meditation would be when, a few hours later, my boyfriend broke up with me.

If this had happened to me a year ago (heck, even a few months ago), I would have been a wreck. I loved him and I was actively discerning moving towards a life with him. I wanted to be with him and be in his life, and I was working hard to remove the blocks in my heart so that I could love him better. So I was surprised to discover that he had discerned that he couldn’t love me the same way.

Out of respect for our relationship and our hearts, I won’t go into more details at this time.

Kathryn a year ago would not have handled this rejection well. She would have cried in frustration and beaten herself up and found every reason that she wasn’t worthy of him so that she could place all the blame on herself. She would have let this rock her tentative identity that had been placed on the backs of her achievements and independence until it crumbled to the floor and she came to the conclusion, as she had done many times before, that she was not worth loving. I know this would have happened because it happened before, in another relationship several years ago. That relationship had left me feeling damaged and it had taken years for me to even gather the courage to try and seek out someone else. My relationship with this new man had healed a lot of those wounds, and by the grace of God it has allowed me to take this break up differently.

I was still hurt. I was still upset. I was still confused and angry because I didn’t understand his decisions or his reasons. I am still all of those things. But, just before this happened, I learned something critically important to being able to bear it. In counseling I had been working through some wounds around abandonment which had left me crippled by beliefs that I was not worthy of attention and not worthy of being prioritized. These wounds had been surfacing in the previous weeks and I had been working through them aggressively (anyone who knows me knows I do everything I do at full force). Finally, in my most recent session with my counselor, the Lord told me something I had never known before. These wounds that had led me to make these beliefs about myself, weren’t what I thought they were at all. I came to realize that in these moments from my past when I was hurt and rejected and ignored I had deserved love. I deserved love, and I did not receive it. But I deserved it all the same.

These wounds, these slights and offenses, had been an affront against my dignity, not a confirmation of what I lacked. I had been hurt because I had been denied what I am worthy of. So, when my boyfriend told me that he couldn’t love me the way I needed him to, it hurt but it didn’t change anything. I am still Kathryn. I am still worthy of love.

I am worthy of love even when someone is not able to give it to me.

Out of this place, the Lord is helping me approach the beginning of this healing process. I keep coming back to healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda, finding in it a sort of model for my own grief and healing.

“After this, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the sheep [Gate] a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be well?’ The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your mat, and walk.’ Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.” John 5:1-9, NAB

I was surprised that it says “when Jesus… knew that he had been ill”, as if Jesus didn’t know beforehand how long this man had been there. I imagined Jesus coming up to the man, not saying anything, and just sitting next to him, letting him tell Him his story of hurt and pain, of the tragedy of having no one to help him and no ability to take care of himself in this way he desperately needs. Jesus patiently lets him recount everything before He offers to heal him, because healing for Jesus is never absent of a personal encounter.

The second thing I noticed was that the ability of the man to receive the healing of Jesus is tied intimately to the state of his heart. When Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be well?”, the man doesn’t answer the question. He doesn’t give a yes or a no. He simply states the truth that he cannot heal himself, and has no one to help him. He admits to being utterly powerless. From this place of heart, Jesus enters in and heals him.

So right now, in the midst of all this pain and frustration, I am trying to be like the man at the pool of Bethesda. When I am in pain, I let Jesus sit next to me, and I simply tell Him about it. I cry in His arms and let Him hold me. I don’t demand any answers, I don’t seek any solutions, and I don’t try to numb what I’m feeling. I don’t want to numb it. I want to feel all of it. From this place of intimate encounter with the Lord, I confess to Him that I can’t heal myself. I can’t make this any better. I can’t make the pain go away. And gently He reveals to me what I need to know, and gently He heals me. This is really hard, and there are so many days to go before I am well, but this is where I am today. I’m sitting beside the pool with Jesus, and He is healing me.

I am worthy of love, and I am loved. Because of that, I know I am going to be okay.

If you find yourself in a place where you are in need of healing, I offer this to you. Sit with Him. Be with Him. Feel everything you’re feeling and tell Him how much it hurts. Tell Him how upset and angry you are and how you don’t understand what happened or what to do. Don’t focus on finding the answers or solving the problem. Focus on being with Him. There is more peace that way, in being held in suspension with the Lord, than in trying to go on all on your own. Just let it be hard and sink into the truth that you are loved by Him even when it’s hard. You don’t have to know what to do today. You don’t have to know the way out. Because the truth is that you are okay exactly where you are right now. You are okay because you are loved, and that’s never changing.

Live in His love today sisters, even if it’s hard.