When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”John 5:6
One of the podcasts I enjoy listening to during my evening walks with Max is “Hidden Brain.” Host Shankar Vedantam interviews people whose work sheds light on the wonders, surprises, and complexities of the human condition.
This week drills down into the idea that human intelligence is not so easy to define or to quantify as a number on an IQ test. The story psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman shares is one I have both heard and observed many times before, from many people. But this time it gifted me with a spiritual “ahah!” that I’m going to focus on in this post.
My apologies to Kaufman for oversimplifying his fascinating narrative (listen to the complete podcast, Why Your’e Smarter than You Think, here) but – essentially – a series of ear infections as a child caused some auditory processing challenges and he was quickly labelled “slow.” Consequently, he was held back one grade. His peers judged him as “dumb”, his parents sent him to a “special” school, and by the time he was a teen he was tracked “special ed” and performed accordingly.
One day a new teacher noticed Kaufman, spent an hour observing him, then approached him and said, simply, “Why are you here?”
The question came with the clear assumption that the young man had a boatload more potential than anyone could (or was willing to) see. The school psychologist, for example, had dismissed Kaufman’s request for a change by referencing a test he’d taken when he was eight: “Your IQ is __; you will never qualify for anything other that where you are…”
The teacher’s question, “Why are you here?” released something in Kaufman, and his whole trajectory changed. I don’t have space for the rest of the story, but he graduated, he made it to college and graduate school, and now he is a leader in the field of understanding intelligence. It’s worth listening to on Hidden Brain.
Jesus releases life!
I want to go back to that, “Why are you here?” question, posed by a teacher who didn’t just look, she saw. I am reminded of Jesus, walking up to the man who had been lying around at the pool, and asking “Do you want to be healed?”
Jesus sees us. This is why he is always asking us the question, “Would you people please open your eyes for once?” Jesus wants us not just to look, but to see.
Also, Jesus unlocked the man’s potential. That is the most profound, exciting, explosive gift the Savior offers. Not just to exist, but to live. Not to survive but to thrive. Not just to look but to see. Not just to hear but to understand. Not just to be alive, but to live with abundance – “More and better life than you have ever dreamed of!”
There is a lot about this life that closes people down, that limits their potential, that shuts down the imagination, that restrains people, and tries to put them into boxes. Jesus offers this invitation: “I want you to tap all the potential you were created with, and I want you to live beyond anybody’s expectations other than God’s.”
Now that’s salvation! That’s living like we mean it! – DEREK