Tag Archives: honesty

Christ’s Question to a Blind Man Is a Question to Us All

 

John 9 blind man

“Do you want to be healed?”

Jesus’ question in John 9 to a “man born blind” seems strange at first. The answer was, “Yes!” And it would, of course, be the sincere answer of many, then and now, should the Lord ask and the opportunity truly be offered.

But answering it might require much more honest, difficult soul-searching than we might expect. You see, the uncomfortable truth is that, for some of us at some times in our lives, we simply can’t afford to be healed. It may actually be the last thing we want.

Once this blind man was healed, good news! He no longer had to sit by the side of the road and beg. But more news: he no longer could, even if, for some reason, he wanted to.

In asking the question, Jesus is also asking this man to grapple with who he really is. The Healer is willing to heal him, if that is what he really wants. But Jesus is amazingly unwilling to force himself and his healing on anyone. The deep honesty Jesus asks this blind man to embrace is no easy thing.

Am I willing to be that honest myself? What if my blindness or disease is not so much physical as a “disabling” attitude—critical, grouchy, grinchy, selfish, hard, cynical, bitter, etc. Yes, it shrivels my soul, but maybe I’ve learned how to use it to control and manipulate the people around me—and they tiptoe around to let me and rarely call my hand. What if Jesus offered healing? Would I really want it?

Healing can be hard! I can’t help but wonder if this former blind man was ever tempted during incredibly dark times (even for him) to renounce his healing and pick up his beggar’s bowl? Was he ever tempted to go back to the begging he’d known rather than embrace the health that required so much and was at times so frightening because it was unknown?

I don’t know about him, but I know about me. I’m picking up my own “beggar’s bowl” every time in attitude or action I act as if I have a right to be treated as some sort of victim. I do not.

I’m in awe of the truly courageous people I see each day dealing with great difficulty—physically, emotionally, and otherwise—who refuse to see themselves as victims. But I too often see in myself—with far less reason—a surprising unwillingness to accept genuine healing and the responsibility that comes with it. I don’t like what it says about me when I find myself expending great effort to be sure that nothing as demanding as something approaching wholeness and maturity is required of me.

For “healed” folks, the drama is over. Now the duties, tasks, activities required of healthy people are required of me. I can no longer center on my hard lot, playing for sympathy, controlling others by my supposed status as a perpetual “victim,” if that’s my temptation.

Not everyone truly physically or emotionally damaged has the opportunity for health the man in John 9 did. But do we see that in some ways Christ’s question comes to us all at a very deep level? “Do you want to be healed?”

The answer will shape our lives and the lives of those around us, some of whom are the innocents who pay a heavy price if we actually have a choice—and choose to remain perpetual “victims.”

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Chasing Happiness Is the Recipe for Unhappiness

 

happiness

Are you happy?

If that question catches you off guard and you’ve really not thought of asking it in a long time, chances are good that you really are. Happy, that is.

The best way to be unhappy is to spend a lot of time asking yourself often, with deep feeling, and poignancy, “Am I happy?”

Another sure-fire path to unhappiness is to spend a lot of time around: 1) navel-gazers always asking themselves if they are happy, and, 2) folks who feel guilty when they are happy (as in “content”) too long.

Chase happiness as a goal and you’ll always chase it away. It won’t and can’t be produced that way because by its very nature, real happiness is the sweet fruit of living a life not centered on self.

Happy people are so unfocused on themselves that they are almost always surprised when a bothersome busybody like me asks, “Hey, are you happy?” Their reaction? “Well, I’ve not thought about it much . . .” That’s a key, you see. “But, yeah, now that you mention it, I really am.”

I’ve tried to think of some common qualities the happiest people I know seem to share.

The happiest people I know come from families who are good at being happy. If you don’t, don’t despair. Somebody has to choose to get the happiness trend started. Might as well be you. If you don’t know how to, get help. It’s available. By the way, happy people know that making excuses for being unhappy means planning to stay unhappy, so they are brutally honest with themselves and utterly refuse the sick “pleasure” of playing the victim.

The happiest people I know understand something about balance. They work and play equally well, in ways that build up and don’t tear down.

The happiest people I know like their work but love their lives and know that work is just part of their lives, not the whole show. I’ve known over-achievers I’d say seem happy but their “Type A-ness” is more a challenge to their happiness than conducive to it. And it can be challenging indeed to the happiness of those near them.

The happiest people I know take pleasure in recognizing small things as great blessings. Sunrises, sunsets, naps, flowers, grandkids, puppies, good books, good food, sweet songs, hugs.

The happiest people I know realize that “bigger and more” only rarely add up to “better.”

The happiest people I know laugh often and know that life is far too serious business to always take seriously or to always be business.

The happiest people I know invest time in friends they not only can trust but whom they can trust themselves to. Real friends around whom they are always lifted up, not convenient counterfeit friends who bring needless pain and shame.

The happiest people I know are deeply content and not ashamed of it. It’s a balance thing. Not stagnant at all, neither are they “driven.” They enjoy their own company, but also have deep friendships. They have goals but keep their eyes open to the joys along the road. They know instinctively that it is on the journey, and not in reaching the goal, that life happens.

The happiest people I know not only love life, they love the God who gives them life. They know he loves them and that when he looks at them, which is always, he looks at them with eyes filled with a Father’s joy.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Out of the Depths” Comes a Cry for Help and Hope

 

depths

I love the Psalms.

They teach us to pray. They teach us to be honest with God. In each one, at least in a verse or two, and often in every verse, we find ourselves and our own feelings.

Consider, for example, Psalm 130. Ah, here’s a psalm for real people, flesh and blood humans who haven’t got life all figured out, who make mistakes regularly, whose lives have plenty of room left for growth. Real people with blood in their veins.

Someone once poked fun at the Puritans by chiding that they thought themselves so holy that they had to hold on to the huckleberry bushes to keep from inadvertently ascending.

The writer of Psalm 130 is under no such delusion. Driven to his knees and to his Lord by his own weakness, his cry for help and mercy becomes our own cry for mercy and grace. No wonder this psalm has through the centuries often been used in the worship and liturgy of God’s people to express their need, their confession of sin, their trust.

The psalmist (probably not David on this one), starts off “real” and stays that way: “I’m in a mess, and only you, my God, can save me!” The NIV renders this, “O Lord, out of the depths I cry to you!”

Eugene Peterson is right on target, as usual, in his paraphrase (The Message): “Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Listen to my cry for mercy!”

This cry comes from “out of the depths.” The psalmist is sinking in his trouble. He’s drowning and headed for oblivion, and he knows it. If you’re drowning, you don’t politely whisper, “Say, would you help me please? Ever so sorry to be a bother, but I really believe I may be drowning.”

I’ll never forget the day my son Joshua and I went, believe it or not, rafting down the Nile in Uganda. We had great guides, but a Class 5 rapid christened “Silverback” just about did us both in.

We knew our chances of riding the raft all the way through that one were virtually nil; the right plan is to ride it as long as possible before the inevitable dunking and downward plunge. It is incredibly difficult to get your breath in that kind of white water even when, after what seems like thirty minutes down below, you finally bob up (which you do by relaxing [?!] and trusting your vest). The muted underwater world and the green glow you saw overhead as you floated upward has finally turned back into the deafening but welcome sound of crashing waves. You see bright light and foam and froth; you desperately need air, but all you seem to be able to suck in is foam and spray. Seems such a shame, you find yourself thinking, to get to the surface and still drown!

What Silverback did to me, life at times does to us all. And we find ourselves fresh out of wise words and self-help strategies and success seminars. We discover that we’re in the same boat as all humans. We are not “a cut above” and our words are cut down to three: “O God, help!”

He does. And the psalmist’s words in this psalm become ours: “If you, God, kept records of wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped” (The Message).

        You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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