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What do you want?

It’s a question I think I hear more in chick flicks than in church. I think specifically of Ryan Gosling in The Notebook yelling, “What. Do. You. Want?” at Rachel McAdams. 

Aside from Ryan Gosling, another man who asked this question was Jesus. There’s this story in Mark 10, where a blind man yells at Jesus from the side of the road. Imagine it--Jesus is walking along in this huge crowd of people who literally believe He is the Son of God. He’s a pretty big deal. Some random blind beggar from the side of the road yells out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The disciples, forever trying to be Jesus’ bodyguards, try to silence the man. He refuses and continues yelling. Jesus approaches the beggar and says, “What do you want?”

It’s such a simple question. But asked by an important person at an important time, it becomes a question with a lot of depth. 

How do you imagine Jesus asking this question? Does He ask it in a light and airy, hippie Jesus kind of way? Does He ask with the intensity of Ryan Gosling? Does He ask it like a loving father talking to his children? Or perhaps like an annoyed mother? 

Of course we’ll never know. But the way that you imagine Jesus asking this question probably reveals a lot about your perception of Him and your interaction with this question.

I don’t know about you, but I often dread being asked what I want. Growing up in church communities, I often felt like what I want didn’t (or shouldn’t) matter. I’m supposed to die to myself to follow God. Even among the general public we find people emphasizing gratitude and always appreciating what you have. Of course all of this is really good, but sometimes we diminish the importance of desires with these attitudes. 

Our deepest desires are some of the truest parts of who we are. I think that’s a part of why they scare us. Often our desires get at that authentic, true self that I talked about last time. 

Back in Mark 10, the blind beggar answers Jesus, saying he would like his sight back. Of course! His needs and wants were obvious to everyone walking by, but Jesus still gave him the dignity of voicing what he wanted from the Son of David. 

So what do you want? Your deepest desires may not be as obvious as that beggar’s. You probably have your basic needs met. Sometimes it takes some time to figure out what we really want. So go ahead - take some time to write down everything you want--whatever it may be. Try for a list of 50 or 100 things. Trust me. It’ll be good for you. Consider what these desires might be revealing about your deeper self. Then take some time and imagine Jesus asking you this pivotal question, “What do you want?” 

How do you hear it from Him? 

How do you want to respond to Him? 


(Originally published in August 2020)

I just finished reading the book The Hiding Place for the first time. Some of you are shocked that I’m just now reading this book. Others of you have probably never heard of it. For that crowd, here’s the basic plot summary. It’s the story of the ten Boom family--a Dutch family living in Holland during WWII. They are very committed Christians, and they end up taking part in hiding Jews from the German occupation. As a result, they are arrested and the two sisters are sent to a concentration camp in Germany. One survives (Corrie) and one dies (Betsy). Corrie goes on to start a home for people who suffered in the war, helping them through forgiveness of their enemies. She even meets one of the soldiers from her concentration camp later in life. He is moved by the message of Jesus she has shared--that even his sins can be forgiven by Jesus. It’s a moving story in just about every respect. It brought me to tears. It made me laugh. It made my heart ache in the best ways. 

There are many lessons and truths to be absorbed from this classic book. There’s one in particular that I’d like to share today. There’s a scene in the book from when Corrie is a young girl, and she’s on a train with her father, who’s a very respected watchmaker. She takes a moment to ask him something she’s been wondering about--it happens to be a question about sex. These things were simply not discussed in her time and place. But she was curious about something she had heard, and she trusted that it was okay to ask her father about it.

His response is fascinating. He asks her to get down his briefcase full of tools. It’s very heavy. He asks if she could carry it for him when they get off the train. It’s definitely too heavy for her, and it would be very difficult. He uses this as an illustration. He tells her that he knows the answer to her question, but she is not yet ready for the weight of this answer, just as she is not ready for the weight of the briefcase. So instead her father will continue carrying that weight for her until she’s ready to bear the answer. 

Later in life, while Corrie is suffering in prison and then the concentration camp, this illustration comes back to her. She is witnessing the depths of human depravity. She feels the pain for herself, but also the deep pain of watching others suffer. Then she realizes that God is like her father. He is able to bear the weight of these sufferings. The weight of the “why’s” and the “what if’s.” When Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are weary. My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” He’s offering to carry those things that are so heavy they may crush us. 

Some of us have not come near witnessing or experiencing that level of suffering. Yet these last couple of months have forced us to look at suffering and death more than we usually would. We’ve seen the New York Times list of people who’ve died from Covid-19. We’ve heard about the day-laborers in India facing deeper poverty and even starvation because of the pandemic. We’ve felt hopeless as we see this sickness enter refugee camps, where the overcrowding and already dire conditions will only fuel the spread. We’ve seen the gaps of rich and poor even more pronounced as we realize how many people depend on school lunches or don’t have internet at home. Single people have felt depths of loneliness. Parents have found themselves at the edge of their sanity. We’ve felt the anger and division caused by turning a pandemic political. We’ve seen the video of George Floyd dying at the mercy of police. We’ve witnessed the peaceful and less than peaceful protests taking over our cities. Some have felt the pain of blatant and subtle racism and we’ve witnessed the effects of a racist system. We’ve been unsure how to hold this pain. Regardless of our levels of suffering, we have all shared in suffering these past couple of months. None of us can say it hasn’t touched us. Yet to all these different pains, there is one answer -- the Lord who offers to carry our burdens. He invites us to say, “This is too much for me to bear. Will You take it?” The One who bears the suffering of the world is inviting us to find relief in Him. Will you?


Sometimes the message of my faith can begin to feel commonplace. It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The correct answer has always been Jesus. But the message that God became man--not considering equality with God a thing to be grasped (Philippians 2)--lived and taught and healed a lot of people, and then died in disgrace, as a failure, is anything but common. It’s extraordinary. Beyond that, He came back from the dead and then gave us the Spirit of God that raised Him from the dead to dwell within us. And all we have to do is believe. It’s absolutely crazy. It is the most unexpected of gifts!

Talking about my faith with others, especially those who don’t share it, makes me come face to face with the wonder of the Gospel. I’ve been in conversations where it almost seems too good to be true to tell people that all of their sins, their failures, their shame, even all their fear, can be taken care of by one simple act of faith. 

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is in John 4. It’s often referred to as the story of the Samaritan woman. In it we encounter a woman who, in the presence of a devout Jewish teacher (Jesus), should be riddled with shame. She’s living with a man who is not her husband. Being a Samaritan is shameful--half Jewish, half Pagan. She approaches Jesus, because he’s sitting at her village well. I imagine she felt pretty nervous and maybe a little confused as to what this Jewish man was doing there. He puts her at ease by simply asking her for water. Interesting how he begins their interaction by being the person in need. 

Culturally speaking, He shouldn’t have been in Samaria. He should not have been talking to her. And He certainly shouldn’t be drinking water from this pagan well. But, unexpectedly, He does all of that. She quickly realizes that she doesn’t need to be afraid or ashamed. Instead, she sees that He is the one she’s been waiting for. She tells him that she and her village have been faithfully waiting for the Messiah--the one who would set them free. Jesus tells her that He is that messiah. He is the one she’s been waiting for. What a pleasant surprise for her that He’s not only the savior, but He’s also kind and open. Because of their interaction, her village welcomes Jesus and He stays with them for three days. 

Can you imagine the thrill? You’ve waited your whole life for this Messiah. He feels almost mythical. Then there He is--eating with you, drinking with you, staying in your home. So a miracle happens. Pagan, idolatrous people become followers of Jesus. He delivers them from their shame and fear and guilt. Jesus does the same for us every single day--we simply must wait, listen, and respond. How will you do those things today?

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