Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

When Kindness Stopped



                                                       Reflections on Mark 10:49


And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him here." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you."
                                                                        Mark 10:49

It’s almost over.

The crowd coming, the crowd here, blend into one and move together. He’s passing now. People are everywhere – absolutely everywhere, straining to see Him, pressing and pushing with no care for anybody else. Will He see their sick? Will He stop and do a miracle? Will something happen if they touch His robe? If He did it elsewhere, will He do it here? This is it. One chance. Before He passes.

Lost in the dust of the back row, the beggar continues to cry out. The crowd washes over him like a giant ocean wave -- pounding, trampling, hurting.

It’s almost over.

I wonder, which one is Him? Is it obvious? Is He alone, encircled by His friends, or is He walking with someone? Does He stand out? What is He doing? Is He talking with His disciples? Is He engaging with the crowd? Is He moved by those who’ve fought their way to the front – especially the needy and the sick? Does He care?

And the sound -- when did He hear the sound?

Did it first register on His face? Is that what made Him stop? Did He hear it with His physical ears – but how could He? The crowds are too big, too loud. Or was it that still small voice of the Spirit? However it happened, He heard. He stopped. Did the crowd stop with Him? Did their collective voice quiet a little – thrilled with anticipation that maybe, just maybe, He stopped for them?

Again, I wonder, did He lift His hand like a master conductor to hush the crowd even more so everyone could hear what He heard. That sound, that magnificent sound, like a trumpet blasting to the heavens, announcing the King’s presence.

“Jesus, Son of David…”

Now He knows somebody here knows Him.

He looks in the direction of the sound. Where is it coming from? No one can see the trumpeter buried in the back, still screaming and having no idea the spotlight of heaven and earth now lights on his face with a brilliant glory.

            “Have mercy. Take pity. Be kind to me.”

Just then the King issued a command to the crowd in front of the beggar, “Call him here.” And they did. The same ones who pushed him down…

…raise him up. With voices filled with excitement, they say, “Take courage, blind man! Cheer up! Stand on your feet. He is calling for you.”

“He’s calling for me?”

And the trumpeter stops his playing. He feels the hands that slapped him down are now clapped tight in his, strong and firm, bringing him up, dusting him off, patting him on the back, and sending him hurriedly into the audience of the King. They’re helping not hurting. Is that possible? And they’re telling him news.

Unimaginable news.

Kindness has come and stopped for him.

*       *       *


Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Eric has been that kind of person in my life for a bunch of years. Both of us write. Both of us journal. At times like these, I simply thank God for him.

Eric,

I’ve got to admit, the beggar’s story is troubling me. Here’s why.

I think many of us are like Missy’s friend. We spend the best years of our lives trying to get the right people in the right places to like us. We work hard on how we look, where we live, what we do, who we know, and how much we have. Most of us don’t even know we’re doing it. A man said to me once, “People are going to be impressed with my obituary!” Stupid me, I laughed. I thought he was joking.

He wasn’t. He was (sorry) “dead” serious.

I find it easier to spend time with people who’ve come to the end of themselves. Nothing has worked. Nothing has satisfied. They’ve turned to drugs and alcohol, sexual addictions, porn, eating disorders – you name it. The men I work with know something’s wrong inside them. They want freedom. They want help.

So what do I do with them?

I bring them to Jesus. I do everything I can to help them do exactly what the beggar does – cry out to Him. Beg Him for kindness. I know this, you know this, there’s nothing like it when the Lord Jesus Christ sets us free, when He fills our heart with love this world knows nothing about, not in comparison. He satisfies. He gives, and He is, the approval we’ve longed for all our lives. He’s everything.

So I push them to the front – while He chooses the one in the back.

Why does He do that?

One of the guys I’m working with called me yesterday – so downcast. He tells me the Lord is answering everybody else’s prayers but his. Never his.

“Why them? Why not me?” he asks.

I know what that’s like. It’s happened a lot in my life. He blesses others, not me. Even people I’ve pushed aside, He chooses to honor. Then it’s like He points to me and says, “Call them here.” I want to say honestly, selfishly, “No, I’m not doing it.”

“I was here first.”

Thad

Eric shot a quick note back, “Will write soon. I must say though, you’re a piece of work!” And with it, a smile face. Classic Eric, I thought to myself, irritating and hysterical all wrapped into one. A few days later, he wrote again.

            Thad,

            I wonder if I ever told you the story of my friend, Zan?

He worked part time at our church – cleaning, doing odd jobs. I saw him on occasion, waved, maybe said, “Hi” but nothing more. I was an assistant pastor in those days and the church was so big, so busy, I barely took notice of him.

Just that he was a slight man, early sixties maybe, divorced, living on his own.

Then one day, I heard he was in the hospital – heart attack. I remember praying for him but that’s about it. I never went to visit him. A few weeks later, I saw him back at work. Somebody told me he was doing much better.

“He’s a smoker,” they smirked. “Probably what caused it.”

I didn’t think much of it. But some weeks later, I was sitting on the steps outside the church feeling like the weight of the world had come crashing down on me. I’d just learned a twenty year old college student named Whitney had died in a car accident. She was an incredibly gifted young lady with a family who adored her. I was so lost in grief I had no idea he was sitting there beside me.

“I heard about Whitney,” he said awkwardly when I looked up. “I’m sorry.”

“Thanks,” I said and, trying to make conversation, I asked, “Are you ok? I heard you were in the hospital.”

“I’m ok. The Lord is always kind to me.”

I looked at him, I mean, really looked at him. All these years, he’s been a nobody hardly anybody ever sees. And somehow, his words surprised me.

“How has He been kind to you?” I blurted, almost rudely.

And then he shared his story.  All of it. Growing up poor, an alcoholic father, a working mother, a high school dropout who went into the military, married the most beautiful girl in the entire world, had two healthy and great kids – “well, mostly great!” – only to find his wife leave him for another man.

“I started drinking like my father. For years, I couldn’t think straight. But a day came when I finally did what my grandmother taught me to do. I got on my knees and asked Jesus to be kind to me.”

And then he smiled a sheepish smile, put his head down, and blushed like somebody who didn’t deserve what he’d been given.

I wanted to blush back.

What kind of person am I? Why have I pushed this man away? Why have I been blind to the one the Lord sees and unkind to the one the Lord has been kind to?

I tell you this, from that day on, I had a new friend.

Eric


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