I want to see

Bartimaeus the beggar was sitting alongside the road when he heard a great crowd pass by. “Hey,” he asked someone nearby, “what’s going on?”

“It’s Jesus!” they said.

Now Bartimaeus may have been blind, but he was in the know. He had heard of Jesus.

And Bartimaeus had no shame!

I love this about him. He understood his great need, and he let go of inhibitions and the desire to please people.

“He shouted, saying, ‘Jesus, Son of David, take pity and have mercy on me!’

But those who were in front reproved him, telling him to keep quiet; yet he screamed and shrieked so much the more, ‘Son of David, take pity and have mercy on me!’” (Luke 18:38-39, Amplified version)

This past Sunday night our church held its monthly prayer/worship night. Philip, who is from Uganda, led the service. “We must realize how desperate we are for God. Only then will we really seek Him,” he said. “People in my country are desperate because their needs are obvious, as basic as food, medicine, jobs. Great needs and loss surround them. Here in the U.S., we are not so desperate for physical things. But if we want to really follow after God, we have to realize that we are just as desperate spiritually. Then we will seek Him.”

It reminded me of something I heard a pastor from Ghana say. He was asked what advice he would give to U.S. believers. “You have a decision,” he said. “Will you seek God out of desperation or devastation?”

Bartimaeus recognized his desperation. It was easy for him to: he was blind; he was a beggar.

We, too, are desperate. Appearances may testify otherwise, but Scripture tells us that without Christ, we are blind, lost, and imprisoned (Acts 26:18). We are sick and injured (Jeremiah 17:9). We are walking dead—true zombies (Ephesians 2:1).

It just isn’t easy for us to realize this in our culture. If we’re not in a place of being devastated, it’s really easy to forget that we are desperate. We distract ourselves with stuff and activities and media, and our desperation stays hidden.

But when we don’t realize our desperation, we don’t cry out. We politely ask for growth and help. We share requests and sometimes remember to pray for others.

But desperate prayers are different. Bartimaeus is a good example of that. Out of desperation he cried out! More than that, he screamed and shrieked! He was NOT going to let anything keep Jesus from hearing him. Even when the crowd “reproved (him) and told (him) to keep still, … (he) cried out all the more” (Matthew 20:31).

Jesus, of course, answered Bartimaeus’ plea for mercy and pity.

“Then Jesus stood still and ordered that (Bartimaeus) be led to Him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ (Bartimaeus) said, ‘Lord, let me receive my sight!’”

Jesus will answer our pleas, too.

But we have to ask. Really ask. Desperately ask–because Jesus knows our hearts. He knows when we’re simply going through the motions, mouthing prayers, checking devotions off our to-do list.

We MUST recognize our desperation to cry out authentically. Desperation is an absolutely necessary step. All other steps follow it. Again, Bartimaeus serves as an example: out of desperation, he cried out; Jesus met him and healed him; and then Bartimaeus followed Jesus. Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has healed you” (Mark 10:52). But because Bartimaeus realized he been saved out of desperation, he saw with greater than physical sight. He knew his way was now with Jesus. “(He) began to follow Jesus, recognizing, praising, and honoring God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God” (Luke 18:43).

I often want to skip right to the following part and the praising part. I want to be a witness to others.

But an acknowledgement of desperation is a prerequisite for all of it.

God, I need you desperately—and I need to know that I need You.

Help me, please.

I want to see.

Slow down

I took this picture during our trip to Vermont, where life DOES seem a little slower. It made me laugh then and it seemed quite appropriate for today's post. Another sign on the property said this lady sold wool. It was a little late for us to stop and bother her, but I wish we had.

“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (NLT).

Last Saturday I got sick with a cold, sick enough that I slept through the Saturday noise of my household and still fell asleep early that night. When I got out of the bed Sunday morning, still woozy but better, I felt slowed down. Quick movements made my head feel like the tilt-a-whirl at the carnival.

I actually enjoyed it. I washed the breakfast dishes methodically, enjoying the warm water on my hands. I did only the things that absolutely needed to be done before going to church. When I began to cough during the service, I stepped out, got myself coffee, and chatted with a young mom nursing her baby daughter.

This quiet spirit flowed through the entire day, even through the meal preps and cleanup and the lesson planning for my classes.

Then came Monday.

Vroom, vroom. Let’s go. Hurry, hurry. Lots to do.

I left my lower gear behind and jumped straight to overdrive.

And I lost something really important in the process.

Then my in-laws arrived Thursday afternoon. Though it doesn’t seem so bad to multitask while interacting with my kids, husband, and colleagues, to do that with people you love but don’t live daily life with seems, well, RUDE. I slowed down.

And then, late that night, after everyone else was asleep, I read the next day’s devotional in Jesus Calling (just trying to get a jump on the day, you know). It was about time—literally, “time.” “Don’t fall into the trap of being constantly on the go. Many, many things people do in My Name have no value in My kingdom. To avoid doing meaningless works, stay in continual communication with Me.”

Oh.

The next day I read the Scripture passages that were listed with the devotional. “Mary…sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”

I’ll be honest, though I LONG to be a Mary, I identify more with Martha. I often say, “But, Lord, ALL these things HAVE to be done. And quickly!” I can understand exactly how Martha feels.

Then I looked at the passage in a couple other translations. The “had to be made” is absent. The ESV just says “distracted with much serving,” and the Amplified says she was “overly occupied and too busy with much serving.”

What if all my rushing around, my multi-tasking fifth-gear—an attribute so highly praised by our culture—is nothing more than “over-occupation” and “busyness”?

Maybe rushing is, ouch, sin.

Maybe slowing down is “choosing the good portion,” like Mary did. The Amplified says this “good portion” is “to Mary’s advantage.”

There is still much that HAS to be done. But I don’t think my rushing accomplishes it any more quickly. And rushing keeps my focus and concentration off of Christ and on the pile of “has to be done.”

This afternoon, in a conscious effort not to rush it, I left early for an appointment. PJ, in between his morning and afternoon sessions of preschool, was with me. As we walked out the door, he said, “Look, Mommy. It’s snowing. It’s a gift from Jesus.”

We had a couple blessed minutes to stop and watch the gigantic flakes float down, a couple blessed minutes to consider the gift and the Giver.

“Only one thing is needed. … (Choose) “what is better,

And it will not be taken away…” (NIV 84).