Ashes 15: Can you see...

Then why are you asking for a sign...

Mark 8:11-26 11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, "Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation." 13 And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.

14 Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out - beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod." 16 They said to one another, "It is because we have no bread." 17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" They said to him, "Twelve." 20 "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" And they said to him, "Seven." 21 Then he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?"

22 They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Can you see anything?" 24 And the man looked up and said, "I can see people, but they look like trees, walking." 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Then he sent him away to his home, saying, "Do not even go into the village."

First off, my apologies for being away this past week. Some personal matters, including both my job and my internship, required much of my attention and energy. The last thing I want to do is offer half-hearted thoughts when my mind is really elsewhere. I'll keep those between me, God, and my closest friends.

Back to the story at hand. It's honestly one of my favorites, mostly because in this scene, you see a different side of Jesus: the mildly frustrated, cut-straight-to-the-point, unable-to-mince-words Jesus. He's just had another go with the Pharisees, men so caught up with legalism and stringent piety that they fail (on a regular basis) to see God's presence and activity right in front of them. Even after observing countless healings and miracles, these guys are obstinate enough to ask for a sign. Jesus' response: No. You aren't getting one. At least not the one that you seem to think is going to change your mind.

And then there are the disciples. Guys who have been traveling and ministering with him for quite some time. Jesus gives them a warning about "yeast," and like too many people in our current generation, they take him literally. They think he's talking about bread.

Have you ever had one of those conversations with a dear friend to whom you're trying to make a point, and no matter how many different ways you try, they just don't get it!!! 

Since I was young, since the thoughts of worthlessness, exclusion, paranoia, and anxiety, feelings of being unwanted, unattractive, undesirable entered my mind and my worldview, I have always struggled to truly see the truth of myself. Even after coming out, making friends who were (and are) truly amazing, supportive, encouraging, and intuitive, and experiencing a decent amount of professional and academic success, I still find my silent prayers including a petition for a sign: for some visible symbol that God still loves me, takes pride in me, and finds joy in the work I do and in the life I live.

Admittedly, the past week+ has been a hard one, dealing with a sudden onslaught of depressive symptoms, experiencing some changes, shifts, and conflicts in my various relationships. It's weeks like these where I sense myself internally begging for some epiphany, some realization of my worth and my wantedness that sticks, that takes root in the depths of my psych and starts to grow. It's weeks like these where I have moments of sitting on the couch, sobbing, nonverbally asking God for some sign of her love.

I sometimes wonder how Jesus would respond were I to ask him questions like this in person, face to face. What would I see in his eyes? How would his tone of voice change? Would he be frustrated, exhausted by the depth and pervasiveness of my own need? The Pharisees (and the disciples too) were often just asking for some sign that Jesus was indeed doing the work of God. Me? My question of repetition is, "Am I loved? Am I wanted? Do I really add richness and value and beauty to the lives of those I call 'friends'?" While these questions are most often offered to God in the silence of my mind and heart (and my not so silent tears), the responses come through the people around me, often without my directly asking them.

The Pharisees don't get it. The disciples don't get it. And despite Jesus' visible frustration, he nonverbally answers their request. He spits in his hands, touches a blind man who has asked to be touched, and ends up healing someone whose inability to see is physical. At first the action only shifts his sight a little, so Jesus touches him again. Finally, his sight is restored.

Healing... answers... don't often take place immediately. It happens in increments, but always with intentionality. The past decade has brought immense healing for me. With every encounter where the voice of God comes through the mouth of my partner, my best friend, my pastor, my professor, or a stranger, my ability to "see" grows a little stronger, a little sharper, a little more clear.

What are your questions? What are you not able to see right now? Write these things down, look at the words on the page, and take some time to see if the answers are there, even if only in part.

In other words, open your eyes...