The page on the calendar has been turned to reveal a new month and a whole new year. In the northern hemisphere, winter has begun, and New Year’s Day dumped a bunch of snow on my location. Everywhere you turn there is talk of newness: resolutions or intentions, new leadership, new projects, and new hope in alleviating the oppressive confinement, death and struggle of the pandemic. When you live with chronic conditions and disability, it can be difficult to imagine anything new. The pandemic has forced many people into the routine people with disabilities have known for eons. There is a sameness to the days; an isolation to the lack of going out when transportation and mobility are challenges; a longing for some shift in the routine. While the vaccine offers hope to some to return to the days of wandering outside our homes, for others the vaccine is unlikely to change the routine of the days. So, for you, is there anything new right happening in 2021?
I am reminded of the story in John 5 of Jesus telling a man languishing by the pool of healing to take up his mat. “One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well. . .” (John 5: 5-9 NRSV) There are several key points in this for my contemplation of something new in 2021.
First, when Jesus asked if the man wanted to be made well, instead of saying, “Yes! Heck Yes!”, the man offered excuses for how he had not been able to get to the healing pool. How often do I profess to want something and then spend a really lot of time making excuses for how it’s not going to happen? It is an easy trap to fall into, especially with conditions not conducive to change. I want to exercise more but…I can’t find a heated pool with sloped entry…it’s cold and messy out…the weather makes my joints hurt more…there’s nowhere to go for a walk… See how easy it is to list excuses and allow the thing I profess to want to not happen. Because I have an excuse.
The next key in the story, however, is what I like to call grace. Grace is not earned or measured. Grace here is the idea that the Universe doesn’t care about your excuses or even that you have been stuck in excuses for quite a while (like 38 years). Jesus spoke a healing command anyway. Knowing what is in our heart, even if our mind is still making excuses, if our soul is ready, change is going to happen. “At once the man was made well.” How was the man made well? Was it something outside the man (Jesus, as an outer agent) or something within the man that responded to the command? I rely on a metaphysical interpretation of the Bible that goes beyond the literal words. For me, Jesus is an example of what is possible, (the things I do you can do also, and more John 14:12). For me, Jesus speaks as the universal and eternal Christ or I AM of my being. For me, it is the Radical Wholeness within me which responds to the idea of taking up my own mat and changing my outer existence. Radical Wholeness is the inner essence of us, always present, always whole, limited only by the way we access it or ignore it. Waiting by the pool represents our tendency to believe in limitation, ignore our Radical Wholeness and wait for someone or something in the outer conditions to help us, to lift us up, to make a change before we can do anything. The call to change is to act! Stand! Take up your mat! Beyond the literal meaning of standing and walking, Radical Wholeness can express through any action we take on our own. There is no need to leap from a wheelchair, run a marathon, be able to hear or to see. There is no requirement to suddenly become able to become capable of taking personal action to change our lives. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly is a book written by a man blinking his eyes.
The pandemic will not end tomorrow. Chronic conditions may not go away; physical disabilities may endure. The real question is whether, or not, you are ready to create something new anyway? Is there anything, tiny or big, that you can do differently in 2021 that will make a change in your life? Or will you be content to offer another year of excuses for why nothing will change and leave the Radical Wholeness within you untapped? It is entirely up to you!
Image description: snow on a white rail with a dark green bush and snowy pine tree in the background
It’s a new year. Will you be content with excuses or will you make a change?