Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cloak Free

                                             Reflections on Mark 10:50 / Luke 18:43

Throwing aside his cloak…

Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.
                                                            Mark 10:50 and Luke 18:43

He takes off into the air.

It’s hysterical and delightful all at the same time. He’s dancing but he doesn’t know how. What Jew doesn’t know how to dance – and dance with joy?! It’s part of culture. It’s common life at all celebrations. It’s what King David did before the ark “with all his might.” Same with Miriam on the banks of the Red Sea.1 And yet, how could he know? He’s never seen it. Look at him, up he goes, taking flight.

Leaping, twirling, his new eyes taking it all in – the sun and clouds, the stunned faces in the crowd, then back to Jesus. He circles Him once, then twice, all the while singing praise to God at the top of his lungs with a song everybody knows.

                        "The Lord is my strength and song,
                        And He has become my salvation;
                        This is my God, and I will praise Him…”

            Then he shouts, “I can see! I can see!” and then sings it again.

The people are elated, breaking into applause and cheers. Joy, infectious joy, is everywhere. They clap, they sing, they shout praises to God and echo his voice with, “He can see! He can see!” as the beggar breaks into the next verse.

                        "Who is like You among the gods, O Lord?
                        Who is like You, majestic in holiness,
                        Awesome in praises, working wonders…
                        The Lord shall reign forever and ever."  2

The man’s eyes are now transfixed on Jesus. Everybody’s is. And why not? He did what no one can do. He made the blind see! And though it may have looked confusing – like the man’s actually praising Jesus in his praise to God – the crowd doesn’t care. They’re doing it too as if they can see Jesus like he sees Jesus!

Sight for everyone! Miraculous sight!

With that, Jesus starts walking the road again. The crowd moves with Him. So does the beggar as he slips behind to follow Him – still singing, still leaping into the sky with  no thought, no care, he’d forgotten the one thing in life he owned.

His everything.

It just lay there, lifeless and still, all balled up in a heap and trampled down as the crowd passed over it. His cloak – buried in the dust – just like his old life.

The picture of what was.

Never again will he come to that horrible office on the side of the road, spread out that dirty old cloak, and beg for mercy. Never again will he hear people call him “beggar” or “blind” or “cursed.” Instead, he will be honored in the streets and in the marketplaces, in the synagogues and at the city gate. For the mercy and kindness of God came for him and opened his eyes. And though Luke doesn’t tell us his name, we know all we need to know about him.

He follows Jesus now. Everywhere He goes.

Cloak free.

*       *       *

Erilynne and I got to the dinner fifteen minutes late. Eric and Missy had invited us to sit at their table for the local Rescue Mission fund raiser. Cliff and Lydia were also at our table along with two other couples.

The banquet hall was packed – “some six hundred people,” Eric told me.

For the last ten years or so, Cliff and Eric have spent most of their Saturday mornings down at the Rescue Mission. They both share a singular passion for the men who’ve come off the streets or out of prison, most addicted to alcohol and drugs, most coming out of a poor, violent, and destructive way of life.

“What do you guys do together?” I once asked Eric.

“We always start with Bible study and prayer. The rest of the time, we hang out with them. Some days it’s nothing more than that. Other days, some may need counseling or some one-on-one time, that sort of thing. What matters is that Cliff and I are consistent. It’s the only way to build trust. Every Saturday – one of us or both of us. That’s what makes it work.”

The evening was spectacular. Great dinner with engaging presentations.

Until the unexpected happened.

The Executive Director of the Mission rose to the microphone and said, in a loud, cheery voice: “Eric, come on up here and give the closing prayer, would you?” Eric didn’t hesitate. He rose from his seat and made his way to the front.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the Director continued, “this is a man who has given every Saturday morning for the last ten years to the men of the Mission!”

He made no mention of Cliff.

Before anyone could respond, Eric took the microphone and asked people to bow their head and pray with him. He was brilliant. He took all the attention away from himself and pointed us to Jesus as he ended the prayer in this way:

You hear the cries of the lowly and hurting
The beaten down and broken-hearted
Men and women no different than anyone of us
To You tonight belongs the glory and praise
For Your mercy and favor, Your grace and love
Receive the offering we bring tonight in Jesus’ name. Amen

The Director then announced, “Let’s hear it for Eric tonight!”

And with that, six hundred people rose to their feet with thunderous applause and a standing ovation. From the corner of my eye, I saw Cliff and Lydia bolt from the table and head for the exit.

“Where are they?” Eric motioned when he got back to the table.

I shook my head and mouthed back, “Gone.”

It took the better part of a week before I heard from Eric again. I sent him some more reflections on the Luke 18 story – hoping it might encourage him. I knew he’d write back when he was ready.

So what was the other night like for me?

Picture an alcoholic binge drinking after eleven years sober. How does that work for you? I’ve spent my entire life fighting for the approval of others. I’d have done anything to get the applause I got the other night.

I lived for it. I begged for it.

Do you have any idea what it was like to be with the men last Saturday? Half of them were at the fundraiser. They saw what happened. They wouldn’t’ even look me in the eyes. As far as they’re concerned, I’m in this for me, not them. I’m out there saying, “Hey, everybody, look at me! I’m helping those poor suckers down at the Mission!” I tell you this and I’m not kidding, in three minutes of applause we lost the one thing we’ve worked hardest for. We lost their trust.

And no, in case you’re wondering, Cliff wasn’t there. He’s not talking to me right now. He sent a note the morning after: “I need time. I won’t be there this Saturday but next. Tell the men.”

He’s angry and hurt.

And that, for me, is the beggar’s world. If we get it, it’s not enough. Never enough. We want more. We’ll do anything to get more. And if we don’t get it, we turn bitter and angry. I don’t want that life. I lived it for too many years.

I want to dance the beggar’s dance again.

But ever since that night, I’ve stopped. The drug of praise still pours into my veins and I want more. Do you understand? I can feel it. With all my might, I’ve run back to the place where I started. Back to that old, beat-up cloak. My old, trusted friend. I dust it off. I shake it in the wind. And I do what I know best.

I beg for more.

And I dream. One day, His kindness will come back to me. I’ll be done living a beggar’s life once and for all and I will leap again! Sing again!

Cloak free and following Jesus wherever He goes.

Pray for me…

1 2 Samuel 6:14; Exodus 15:20
2  Exodus 15:2, 11, 18

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John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?