Lenten Question 2: “What do you want me to do for you?”
I stood in the hallway nervous, but pretending not to be. Inside, voices planned a psychological test–would the boy sit in the hard chair or the soft chair? Even at the age of 16, I was pretty sure they were being facetious. But I also realized that being the first in line and a little early for the interview, I was privy to a conversation that none of the other hopefuls would hear. So maybe I did need to decide which chair was the one to sit in.
The soft chair might say that I was at ease and therefore secure. Or it might suggest I was a self-indulgent slacker. The hard chair could communicate firmness, or perhaps nervousness. How could I know which one they would be impressed with? I opted for the hard chair, knowing full well that if I got nervous and farted in the interview, it would be like sitting on a microphone. I wanted them to know I was ready to handle a man’s chair.
When I finally came in and sat in the chair, the three of them looked back and forth at each other smiling, and then looked at me. I had no idea if they were impressed or condescending in their gaze.
They started in on the questions: “What have you done here at Boy’s State?” “Oh, not much… I’ve only won every trial I’ve mock-lawyered.” “Did you run for office?” “Yeah, I ran for Attorney General. I came closer to getting it than anyone else, except of course for the kid who actually did get it.” “Why should we send you to Boy’s Nation?” “Because it’s either that or I take the capitol by force.”
Then came the question that determined their decision. The one that rendered my chair choice inconsequential.
“You know, if you go to Boy’s Nation, you will meet the President. He’ll come by to take his picture with the whole group, and then he’ll shake everyone’s hand one by one. He’s coming to you, shaking your hand, welcoming you to Washington, telling you congratulations. What do you think you would say to him? What would you ask?”
Apparently, baffled silence was not the answer they were looking for. I had no answer. Well, that’s not exactly correct. I had plenty of answers, but were they good enough? Were they the right answers? If I had one chance to talk to the President, to command the attention of the most powerful man in the world (and thus to become even more most-powerful than him for just a moment), what would be the best possible thing to say?
Maybe that’s why I don’t envy Blind Bartimaeus in Mark chapter 10. He gets his audience with Jesus, and is asked a very simple question: “What do you want me to do for you?” It’s like a waiter might ask, “How can I help you?” He doesn’t hesitate: “Lord, I want to see.” And so he gets to see.
But when I imagine myself standing before Jesus and hearing him ask me, “What do you want me to do for you?”, baffled silence is what comes to mind. It’s like how I hate making birthday and Christmas lists. Sure, I want Laser Tag. But is there something I might want more, and will think of just after the list is notarized and therefore unchangeable? It is such a simple thing, I know. My wife reminds me every year.
Blind Bartimaeus is my mentor in this. He’s undaunted by everyone around him. He is not concerned with being impressive. With asking the right questions. With seeming in control. He just knows very clearly what he needs and presents that to Jesus as succinctly as possible: “Lord, I want to see.”
And he gets to see. He aces the interview after sitting on a blanket on the side of the road.
What would you ask for?