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?” . . . Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
-John 5:5-6, 8-9
Please don’t judge. My February grocery cart was full of chips, cookies, and—well, anything I wanted to eat. Ash Wednesday came and went, and my food choices did not change. However, I did follow my tradition of “taking on” a new devotional book for the 40 days of Lent to add to my Bible reading. Throughout Lent, I add quotes to my journal every day from this devotional and scripture from my Bible, then write my reflections on their significance. These practices benefit my spiritual growth and bring me closer to God. The season of Lent is a meaningful time for me to reflect and repent so that I am fully able to appreciate the renewal of Easter.
However, I did not “give up” anything for Lent. I continued to play video games at 3 a.m., read the daily news reports all day, or consume my junk-food snacks. I believe all that salt and sugar, though soothing during those really cold February days, clouded my senses. I know my body experienced more tiredness; my mind had less clarity and more moodiness. I was definitely out of balance and not feeling much joy. What helped me during those days of sugar highs followed by carb comas was my continued reading of my Bible and my devotional book and then writing in my journal. Eventually I heard the question in my spirit, “Do you want to be made well?” or as one translation states, “Do you wish to have health and strength?” (Weymouth New Testament)
I had to stop and ask myself that question several times. I knew intellectually my answer was, “Yes, of course!” Hmm, who would not want to be healthy and strong? But when I read the story where Jesus asked the ill man that question, I heard three things behind his question that spoke to me and caused me to repent—to turn from the foods and actions that were keeping me from feeling my best and turn toward Jesus’ invitation to stand, take up my mat, and walk to renewed energy and wellness.
I can change.
The man had been ill for thirty-eight years, but that did not stop Jesus from wanting to help him. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since I exercised or how often I have potato chips at the top of my grocery list—I can change. My daily devotional time gives me encouragement, inspiration, and faith to make even small changes.
I have a choice.
I could keep doing what I knew kept me from feeling well. Or I could repent, gain strength from my spiritual practices, and begin doing something new. But I have to make that decision for myself. Jesus raised the question, but I have to choose health and strength for myself.
I can take action.
Once I became aware of what I needed to do to be well, taking action was my next step. Jesus gave the man instructions, “Stand, take up your mat and walk.” There are books, podcasts, and resources that will instruct me on how to be well. I become well when I know what to do and take action.
I’m happy to report that on my last grocery-shopping trip, I had no chips and cookies in my cart. This doesn’t mean that I will never eat chips and guacamole or bake and eat a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Deprivation does not improve wellness. The key is focusing on what keeps me well and doing more of that, like making a veggie pizza. By eating less salt and sugar, I have more clarity and more joy. When I begin with spiritual wellness, I will actually hear and respond to the question: “Do you want to be healthy and strong?”