The Angel That Troubled The Waters


 This is the view of my backyard today. It’s a rainy day in Oregon.

Brenning Manning shares this story in his book called Abba’s Child a section from the Thortan Wilder’s one act play called “The Angel That Troubled The Waters.” This play is based on John 5:1-4, it “dramatizes the power of the pool of Bethesda to heal whenever an angel stirred its waters.  A physician comes periodically to the pool, hoping to be the first in line and longing to be healed of his melancholy.”

As the play goes, “The angel finally appears but blocks the physician just as he is ready to step into the water.  The angel tells the physician to draw back, for this moment is not for him. The physician pleads for help in a broken voice, but the angel insists that healing is not intended for him.”

The dialogue continues–and then comes the prophetic word from the angel:  “Without your wounds where would your power be?  It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women.  The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living.  In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.  Physician, draw back.”

“Later, the man who enters the pool first and is healed rejoices in his good fortune and turning to the physician says:  “Please come with me. It is only an hour to my home.  My son is lost in dark thoughts.  I do not understand him and only you have ever lifted his mood.  Only an hour….There is also my daughter:  Since her child died, she sits in the shadow.  She will not listen to us but she will listen to you”  (Manning, pp 24-25).

Brennan Manning goes on to to talk about the concept of wounded soldiers in the rest of his book. Another author, Henri Nouwen, writes extensively about the wounded healer in his books.

Today, I want to share a word of encouragement with you. What stirs my heart about this story is how Thorton Wilder captured the poignant reality that whatever has troubled your heart and you really wished wasn’t apart of your life, whether it is your personality,a loss, unrest from past experiences, physical pain, violating experiences, a tough diagnosis –when processed and accepted, these problems become gifts of hope and understanding to others. When unprocessed, they can  become crippling burdens of pain.

My encouragement for you today is to trust that you are the way you are for a reason. The things you have experienced were not meant to be wasted experiences. With healthy processing these problems become gifts of understanding that can meet the needs of people around you.   You have the sheer grace of understanding, simply because you have lived through your particular troubles, you have survived, and you have lived to tell the tale. Accept your personality the way it is. You just may be the very blessing that another person needs.

Manning, Brennan. Abba’s Child:  The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging.

Thorton Wilder, The Angel That Troubled the Waters and Other Plays (New York:  Coward-McCann, 1928), page 20.

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