At the men's coffee/bible study this morning we were talking about the healing story in Matthew 20:29-34. Two blind men sitting alongside the road shouted out to Jesus, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!". The crowd told them to shut up so that made them shout all the louder. Blind beggars who were probably on that spot day after day were not going to let a Son of David pass by without taking a shot at mercy, and hopefully, money. That's what they were begging for. Jesus stopped and called them over. "What do you want?", he asked.
What do you want? That's a question that will handled in many different ways this graduation season. We are used to graduation speakers challenging us to go for what it is we really want. Reach for your dreams! If you don't do it, no one will do it for you. I often wonder how that plays in other places. Can you tell a Haitian to reach for his or her dreams. How far does her reach go when unemployment is around 70%. Even in our country hard times are predicted for grads this year due to a very challenging job environment. Many people will find work at other than their dream job. Some may go back to school incurring more debt. Some will find the military a good option if not their first choice.
I hear some Christians taking this question from Jesus and turning it into a promise that he will give us what we want if we tell him we truly want it. Since when does he give us what we want? I thought we were seeking after his will which may be exactly what we don't think we want.
A couple years ago, I read a book about a man who was blinded in childhood. He learned to "see" very well without his eyes. He traveled, was CEO of a major company, and did all kinds of outdoor activities including riding a bike! When he learned of a new process that gave him some hope of becoming sighted, he followed up on it. He had the procedure and follow up treatments and counseling. He was able to see again but he found out it was a complicated process to learn again to see. The coordination of seeing with brain development is highly complex. His brain had to learn to process new data from what his eyes were telling it. It was not easy and for a long time he struggled. It was harder for him to see than it had been not to see. If I recall correctly, the procedure eventually failed and he returned to his unsighted life once more.
So the gift of sight does not come without certain limitations, as well. There is no way of knowing how long the blind men in Jesus' story had been blind. No way of knowing what they were going to have to struggle with after they became sighted. But, it was not going to be an easy life. After all, how long had it been since they worked, or what could they do to support themselves other than begging?
The story ends not with them going out to enjoy a sighted life and living happily ever after, but with them following Jesus. When Jesus asked them what they wanted, that was not their first thought - to follow Jesus. It was their second, after they received their sight. Jesus gave them what they wanted but maybe if they had had more time to think about it they would have asked for something else.
Jesus does not often give us what we want. No one does. I don't think we usually get what we want. Good thing. If we did, we might be much worse off than we think we are. Who knows what they really want anyway?
This graduation season there will be many people pondering that question. What do I want to do with my life. If someone asked me what can I do for you? What would I say? There is nothing - not even sight- that will solve all our problems and make us fulfilled. No dream job, or mate, or "fix" for whatever we are challenged by. What Jesus wants is for us to follow him. We might ask for any number of other things, try out any number of different paths, be healed of any number of personal challenges, be involved in any number of relationships - but the best way to go about life is to put following Jesus before everything else, and all these things will be added unto you.