During the years of our sexual disconnection, Big Guy often would point out that our sex life was, well, broken. Even then, through the fog of all my own baggage and hurt, I could see that for myself.
I shed many tears of frustration over the fact that sex wasn’t working. My emotions always seemed to get in the way, and the sexual tension was constant and difficult.
One time my husband asked me point blank, “Don’t you want our sex life to get better? Don’t you want it to work well?”
I mumbled, “I don’t know”—but the fact is, I did know.
The answer was that I did not want our sex life to get better.
I was willing to accept a healed version if it showed up, but I didn’t actually desire it. I certainly wasn’t willing to admit to it. Or do the work of making it happen.
The Question at the Pool
The book of John tells us about a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. He was lying at the edge of the pool at Bethesda, waiting for the waters to heal him. People would wait for an angel to come along and move the waters, and the first one into the pool after that would be healed.
I wrote a post some time ago emphasizing Jesus’s instructions to the man: “Take up your mat and go.” I asked you to consider what you are willing to do to accept the healing God is doing in your marriage. In my recent post Conquer Your Complacency, I addressed this same idea, encouraging you to face the work and the difficulty of healing.
Several days ago I was drawn once again to John 5. This time, my attention landed not on the healing. This time I was seeing mostly the man at the pool who was waiting to be healed.
Jesus saw him and asked, “Do you want to be healed?”
Now, for most of us, this may seem like a strange question. He’s been unwell for almost forty years. Of course he wants to be healed! Why wouldn’t he?
As I was thinking about my own healing in the arena of sexual intimacy, I saw something I hadn’t noticed before.
Jesus asks the man if he wants to be healed. The man says that he has no one to help him into the healing water. He says that others get in his way.
He does not say, “Yes, I want to be healed.”
It reminded me of my lack of desire to be healed in the area of intimacy. If Jesus himself had asked me if I’d wanted to be healed, I likely would have had a similar response: “My husband isn’t putting in the effort to get me to where I need to be. He is getting in my way.”
I might have said, “Sure, I’m willing to accept healing—as long as I don’t have to do anything that’s hard or uncomfortable.”
I most definitely would not have said, “Yes, please I would like to be healed” without knowing everything that would entail.
Why Not Heal?
I don’t know why the man didn’t answer Jesus–but I have some guesses about why I would have answered in a similar way.
Why didn’t I want my sex life to be better? Why didn’t I want to be healed in the area of intimacy? Why would anyone not want to be healed?
I didn’t want to lose my identity. I thought of myself as wrapped up in victim status and in the scarlet letter I’d worn into my marriage. Healing would mean that I stopped being the woman who still thought of herself as a promiscuous girl who made bad decisions about men. Healing would mean that I would have to adopt an identity as wife founded on something other than having my husband walk on eggshells around me. If I stop being what I’ve always been, how will I know who I am? Will I still be me, or will it make me into a Stepford wife?
The status quo was comfortable. In order to work on sexual intimacy, I would have to do new and uncomfortable things: have conversations about sex, deal with the baggage I brought into my marriage, look into the mirror, and acknowledge my husband’s pain. I would have to admit that I was wrong, and I would have to let go of easy habits and adopt new ones. I would have to change. I didn’t like change, so I avoided it.
I was holding a grudge. It takes a lot for me to be upset with someone, but once I get to that point, it is hard to let it go. I am in the process of becoming a reformed grudge holder, but I must be honest: part of why I didn’t want to do any work on our sex life is because it would have made my husband happy—and I didn’t want him to be happy because of what I saw as his emotional neglect in our relationship. This was wrong of me in all sorts of ways—it was immature, unloving, unChristian, and downright mean. I didn’t want to heal because I wanted my husband to suffer a little.
Instead of stepping into the pool of healing by working on getting better, I preferred to languish by the side of the pool, waiting for an angel to come and for someone else to carry me to where the healing would happen with absolutely no effort on my part.
If God really wants me healed, I thought, He will just make it happen with or without me.
As it turned out, God made it happen—with me.
He didn’t send an angel to drag me into any healing waters. Instead, He sent Jesus, who didn’t ask me if I wanted to be healed. (He knew what my answer would be.)
He showed me my husband’s pain. In doing so, He ripped open my heart and made me want to drag myself into the water. He told me to get to work—and He was right there with me to hold me as I cried, give me strength to do things that were hard for me, to remind me that my true identity was with Him, and to help me see the joy in seeking healing.
My healing began the moment I truly wanted to be in the pool. My heart had been the key all along.
Do You Want to Be Healed?
Do you want the sexual intimacy in your marriage to be healed? If not, do you know what is in your way?
Are you waiting for your husband to do all the work of healing that area of your marriage, or are you willing to make an effort? Whether it involves pulling yourself into the pool and waiting for God’s miracle or picking up your mat and getting started, do you want to be healed?
If you were asked the question at the pool, do you know what your answer would be?
Image credit Robert Bateman, The Pool of Bethesda (public domain)