The other day my wife and I were at the dinner table with friends, and as the table was cleared a theological discussion broke out. One of the particular joys of life, at least for the life I experience here and now, is the chance to just sit and talk...to really sit and to really talk. It takes some effort and a willingness on every participant's part to be open and vulnerable to each other. That sort of talk seems to take on the form of a dance in my imagination. One person leads for a moment, then the other as the step follows the beat of something that is outside of each of us. The type of dance is determined by mood, by mental state, by simply being willing to "go there."
In the midst of this conversation, we talked of God, of justice, of peace and healing and of pain and loss. I don't want to make it sound too poetic or pat. It was neither one of those things. It just simply was a good night's talk after good food between people who trust each other.
In the midst of that talk, though, I found myself facing a challenge. We were talking about the "last days" of creation and the visions that John of Patmos has of the end of days as offered in the Revelation to John. The question was simple, did I believe that there would be a rapture-and did I think I was going to be one of the ones taken up to meet Jesus in the sky? Movies and popular fiction aside, I was-and continue to be-nervous around this promised moment from scripture. Where does that uneasiness come from? My own guilt? My WASP-ish deference and desire to avoid the too-public challenge of such things? Fear? A little of it all, I think.
If I proudly say, "Yes," then am I begging condemnation because I just might not be among those ordered in that group who will be saved? I would avoid that, better not to raise my hand. Is my desire to avoid so strong? Too many times in my life I would rather sit at the back of the classroom, put on the sunglasses and affect boredom. Maybe the teacher won't call? Or, do I plant my standard in the ground? Take that desk at the front? Raise my hand and hope I am called on? Something to fear in both modes...but what is that fear!?!
At the end of the Book of Job, after God has shown up and challenged Job to a "truth-fest," God waits for Job's reply. What will he say?
Job has just seen Truth/Eternity/Love/Holy/Absolute. He has heard the Voice call his name.
What he offers is his own experience of that Truth. "I see. I hear. I feel. I know now that my agenda for You is only an echo-and a poor one at that-of your agenda for me and for creation. Knowing that, "now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:6)
THAT is what I dread. I know God is Truth and I know God is Love...and I truly do KNOW that God loves me "just as I am." Thing is, when I think about it, I find myself wondering if I love myself enough to accept that gift. So human, so eternal, is that fear that the people who told and retold the story of Job eventually added a "happily ever after" coda to the text. Verses 10-17 of the final chapter tell us that the LORD restored Job's fortunes-even to twice what he possessed before all the unpleasantness began.
But that isn't where we honestly encounter Job in ourselves. The story ends with Job expressing repentance for his anger, fear and resentment of God. It ends with God asking us...so, what do you REALLY want from me?
Perhaps that is why I welcome, even though I struggle with it, the way Jesus turns and engages Bartimaeus. "What do you want me to do for you?"
The question is so simple and direct. No preliminaries, conditions or fluff packed up and around it. Simple and direct: "What do you want me to do for you?"
That really is all God EVER asks of us. And yet, we dress our response up with personal theatrics. I know I do....LOTS and LOTS of theatrics at times...most particularly when I am at my worst and struggling to hide that shame from my creator.
Yet, that is when the question presses in most powerfully: "What do you want me to do for you?"
For Bartimaeus, it was a simple response: "I want to see again."
What is your response?