If you were to meet a wise and benevolent spirit who asked you what you wanted, what would you ask for? It seems a simple question, but it is perhaps trickier than we think. What is the one wish which would give you your heart’s deepest desire?
As a kid, I remember the Sunday School story of King Solomon, before he was a king, who was visited by God in a dream. He was told, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5) Solomon asked for wisdom in governing the people and God gave it to him in abundance.
I came across this question this week in several contexts, and it was even asked of me – a synchronicity which once again made me think God is up to something in the learning I am receiving lately. The first synchronicity was two picture books which I read to my students. I hadn’t planned it, but they had very similar themes.
Each book featured 3 brothers. In each book, like Cinderella, the two older brothers were strong and in charge, but the youngest was a simpleton who received the scorn of his older brothers. In each book, a reversal of fortune happened as the simpleton received the good future which the older brothers thought they were entitled to. And in each book, the simpleton was met by an animal, like a toad or rabbit, and asked a question :
“What do you want?”
Of course, the simpleton asked for the very thing which helped him pass the tests of the story and win his good fortune which included not being a simpleton anymore.
The story our community was studying in Mark this week involved Jesus asking the same question to several groups of people. He asked his disciples but their heads were filled with visions of grandeur. “When you reach glory,” they told Jesus, “we each want to sit at your right and left hand.” Little did they know that the road to Easter first involved Good Friday. They wanted all the glory without the cost. Jesus told them, “You have no idea what you’re asking.”
Jesus also asked a blind man. As soon as he heard Jesus was coming, he began hollering for Jesus to come over and help him. The guy threw off his begging blanket and ran over to where Jesus was. “What do you want?” asked Jesus, as if the answer wasn’t obvious. “I want to see,” answered the blind man, who received his wish immediately. Jesus said that his faith had healed him.
We were asked, “What would we ask Jesus if he asked us what we wanted?” What would we want Jesus to do for us? Here is my answer.
I want the same thing as the blind man. I want to see. To always see my life through God’s eyes, because way too often I think my version of things is the end of the story. I’m a lot like the disciples (and like the older brothers in the children’s books), who wanted and even expected glory without the cost.
Way too often I give in to defeatist attitudes and despairing thoughts instead of running to Jesus with my cares like the blind man did. Timothy Keller, an author and preacher, has a good quote. He says that our normal assumptions, pride and egotistical thinking blind us to the truth. One example is worry. “Naturally, if you love people, you’re going to worry about them. But do you know where constant worry comes from? It’s rooted in an arrogance that assumes, I know the way my life has to go, and God’s not getting it right.”
I went back to prayer the next morning and gave God my request. I gave God my worries. My worries that I’m not reaching all those tough kids and tough situations; my worries that I’m too controlling as a teacher; my worries that I will be too swamped during the report cards that are due soon. I asked for my blindness to be healed.
Scripture has a great line: “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2) Our worried ways of living can become as addictive as drugs, and it’s hard to throw off the blanket of our old life, like the blind man did. But when we give up our own ways, God always comes through. I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but I found that as soon as I asked, I received. I asked to see my students through God’s eyes and God healed me. My worries slipped away as I stepped back into service instead of worry. Life felt joyful once again.
I know it is not a one time fix. Like a bad habit, my blindness tends to take over again and again. I pray that it will be healed “more than less”, as we say in our community. Jesus keeps addressing me with the question, “Lydie, what do you want?”. I want to see, and I figure if I keep bugging God, I’ll be ok.