It was 10:00 pm. Marc wanted to think that he would still go out to the bar tonight. Talk to someone in real life. But his exhaustion, his sadness, his feelings of “its-not-worth-the-effort” had already overtaken his plans. Couch, stale potato chips, and the half interesting war documentary had the crumbs of his attention. 10:02pm. Not even tired. His non-thoughts bored him terribly, and no one was posting anything on Facebook worth reading. Maybe he should just go out.
Tonight the clock bled on, feeling unjust to just fake the normal. Spiraling deeper into Mark’s fear of being less of a man, now that he couldn’t even pretend the normal. Did everyone have to feel such hopelessness, loneliness? He used to have friends. Until he was too disappointed with life to have something interesting to talk about. He used to lose himself in weight training and work, but now he couldn’t conjure that internal motivation that pushed him to be better. What if he couldn’t be any better?
That possibility stained the back of his tongue, like un-rinsed vomit. That he had already hit his peak, and there was nothing more worth his aspiration, nothing more to hope for. At least here. That’s all he had, right? The moment. The here. The now. And it was not good.
But what could he do, after everything imploded? After fourteen years of marriage and kids, they finally divorced. After the five close calls over the years, finally, the sixth affair was the charm. Their split should have happened ages ago, actually. They were both unfaithful and unhappy for more of their years together than apart. It was supposedly better this way.
Or was it? Last weekend was his daughter, Sophie’s, birthday. She didn’t want him to come to the house. And if he was honest, he didn’t really want to go through all the drama there. He felt a responsibility, of course. But was that dead weight of time and place and person to person a good reason to make everyone miserable? On his daughter’s birthday? Continually? He bought her an Old Navy gift card. She probably shopped there. Maybe.
Not to mention the change in his job, now remote and based out of an overpriced apartment. Marc didn’t know the people in this building. And now realized he didn’t really know the people who worked out of his office like he used to. Or maybe, he didn’t really ever know them. Possibly they were just professional smile fakers and obliged to a happy hour every so often, just like the TV sitcoms. Proximity and chance, place and time. Relationships that probably really didn’t mean anything. At all. From the beginning.
Being alone was exhausting. The thought of going anywhere filled his arms and legs with lead and his mind sunk him deeper into his hole, in the couch.
How, Marc thought, do you get out of the dark? What if you don’t have enough energy to even want to get out?
“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’” (John 5:6).
Marc heard that once from an online Sunday Service sermon during the pandemic shutdown. But he couldn’t even remember what the pastor said about that passage. But those words burned into his brain, beckoning him to an answer. It was as if Jesus was standing in front of his sweaty couch, holding out his holy hand, gently asking Marc’s personal life changing question.
Do you want to be healed?
Silence. He couldn’t even answer the question. Of course the one who really believed in this stuff would want to be healed. One who knew that their life was over, that their identity in the world was a joke, that everything he tried to accomplish brought pain. That one should want desperately to be healed. So what was wrong with him? He had faith that God could bring healing to someone. He believed that God would heal him, if he just asked for it. But could Marc be so daring to admit that he didn’t want to be healed?
He wasn’t mad at God. Just defeated. He wasn’t forsaking the ancient faith to find another savior. He just didn’t have the strength to press forward. He would still confess with the holy Christian Church in all time and place, that he was a poor miserable sinner in need of salvation. Of course he was. But asking, praying, wishing, for his personal salvation was just beyond his capacity right now. Marc really just wanted to sleep it off. Forever.
DO you want to be healed?
That verse haunted his nights. What if he answered “no”. What if the “yes” was too fake, too far from his lips. His wants and desires were never to be trusted, so he was taught. His spirit was consigned to seek after the pleasure-inducing flesh-pleasing pieces of existence. Why would Jesus leave this up to him?
Grace and mercy are a powerful act of the Almighty God. God alone can grant forgiveness and restoration, salvation from the sorrow of this world, the sorrow of his choices. Did he want to be healed? Only to live through the hurt all over again?
His own unhealed, sick lips rendered mute. Yet in Holy Baptism, Marc was still clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covered all his sin. St. Paul says,
‘Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized in to Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?’ We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His (Rom. 6:3-11).