Healing at the Pool


Do you want to be made well?

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?

Do you want to be made well?

Image credit Robert Bateman, The Pool of Bethesda (public domain)

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12 Comments on “Healing at the Pool”

  1. This must have been a tough post to open up in, but thank you so much for sharing. My husband and I had intimacy issues as well because of my past, and my health issues, and I can relate very much to this.

    I was afraid to want the healing because I had this idea that if we had a healthy sexual life, that if I enjoyed it, I would somehow be doing something wrong. It took getting over that to understand that I needed to want the healing.

  2. For years I was always made at my husband for wanting to be sexual all the time. Early, in our marriage I was okay because we were in the honeymoon phase and without children. When the children came, I began to neglect him and make excuses.. ” I am too tired, we just had sex, I have a head ache, etc.” I didn’t know that I was neglecting him and a very significant part of who he was and what made him feel loved.

    Now that our marriage is very fragile our sexual relationship is a mess. We were sexual 2 nights ago and since then he has been avoiding me. Chris, I know that you have been through a similar season as me. How did you walk through the lonely time when your husband shut down on you?

    I have a lot to learn and room for my own healing. I do want to be healed, and at the same time I watch as my husband does very little but shut me out and threaten divorce.

    1. That was a difficult time for me, although my husband was more angry than withdrawn. I worked hard to understand my husband. I read a lot of marriage forum discussion board posts and blogs by men to help me get a sense of what was going on. Something I read gave me the idea that his withdrawal might have been a sign of his feeling especially vulnerable. He was getting the connection he needed, but he didn’t know if he could count on it or not. Withdrawing and putting barriers between us gave him a feeling of being emotionally safe from me. Seeing his actions that way helped me have compassion for him, and that made it easier to not take his actions personally.

      I also clung to something my mom had said about children: “It’s when they’re most unlovable that they most need love.” (I have a post here about that, I think.) When my husband would act in a way that didn’t feel loving to me, I went out of my way to do something for him–I’d make his favorite dinner, make a point of smiling at him, and so on.

      The loneliness was hard, although our kids were all still living at home with us, and that gave me some distractions I needed. I also worked hard on myself, figuring that even if my husband never changed, I could at least feel more settled within myself and that would be good for me.

      Constantly making myself think about what my husband was feeling, from his point of view, gave me the strength to persist.

  3. Very powerful post, thank you. Lately I have realized that through all the progress I’ve made, I have clung to the belief that healing and growth must come at some great expense to me. While it is true that all change involves loss of some kind, I must admit that what I’ve lost has been unhealthy stuff, and what I’ve gained has been wonderful.

    1. Why is it that we often grieve the loss of stuff that is unhealthy and bad for us, anyway? The more progress I’ve made, the easier it is to let go of that because I know that the space will be filled with God’s goodness for me.

      1. I agree we get better at this with practice. Getting started is difficult, because the baggage has become part of our identify. I think I was afraid of the unknown–who would I be without my fears and anxiety around sex and my marriage? I also think that when we have stuffed the baggage for many years, and then finally addressed it, letting go feels a bit like forfeiting a prize we’ve finally won. I wanted to say “look at me, I’m dealing with my crap, aren’t I brave and deserving of praise?” Sounds kind of silly, but it describes how I felt.

  4. Thank you for this. I need healing in several areas, if not more. I know part of it is there is a sort of feeling of power and control in holding on to hurt, especially when the offender (hubby) had never once apologized or repented. I would love for the offender to feel the hurt I feel and know he did this to me. It also is a wall of protection because hubby has drawn his lines of hurting me in the sand and won’t budge. He will not cease watching sex filled movies. He will not give me oral or manual Sex. He will not make sure I climax when I want to.

    The problem is while he lives comfortably in his issues, I bear the burden and am physically, mentally, and spiritually ill by it. I HAVE to heal. I want to, but letting go of those few strings is do hard. I can easily forgive a repentant person who turns away. I can easily forgive a non repentant person I can easily separate my life from. How much harder it is to forgive a husband who does not see the errors of his ways and I cannot separate from because it isn’t “bad enough” to merit leaving.

  5. Wow….that is incredible that you admitted to yourself that you really didn’t want to put in the work. it is so hard to allow healing in your marriage to take place. It is even harder when you have to put in a lot of effort.

  6. Great question and article. Yes, I could use some healing. I just don’t know what that will take. I think Bonnie once compared orgasm to taking off in an airplane. Along those lines, it’s like I’m trying to fly by waving my arms; it’s just not working for me even though I’m putting forth effort. I have put effort into pleasing my husband, over and over, and I know how to give him a good time by this point. But it feels shallow and one-sided to me; he’s given up on exploring my responses since nothing works, and he has no incentive to do anything differently since he’s satisfied. I’m not sure more effort on my part will make any difference. Where’s my airplane? Hmm.

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