Breathing Under Water: Step 6 – The Chicken or the Egg?

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character.

 

Scripture for Sunday: Mark 10:35-52

35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Notes on the Text:

As we look at the invitation of step 6 to be ready for God’s work in us, we turn to two biblical examples of people trying to open themselves up to God’s vision. The first example is that of the disciples. Two of them wanted a special place right next to Jesus. The second example is that of Bartimaeus. It is interesting that Jesus asks the same question of the disciples and of Bartimaeus because the answers were completely different in their motivations.

 

James and John (two of the disciples) were seeking power as they knew it; as something they could earn and use to feel better about themselves. They were following the patterns of power and control of their time. Having a special position of privilege and power was one of the ways people sought to get happiness. Their society was class-based, and people believed that those who had great positions of power were the ones who really made it in life. With a class system, most of the people were stuck in being on the bottom and there was no way of making it out of there. That is why James and John thought that it was important to ask for this kind of privilege. This was their chance! They needed Jesus’ help. The problem was that they were asking for the wrong thing! They wanted that which would never satisfy or heal them. They were getting in their own way of transformation because they were still stuck in the illusions of their society about happiness and fulfilment in life.

 

The second example is that of Bartimaeus who was physically seeking healing but who also could give us an example of recovery of sight metaphorically. The Gospel writer sandwiches the teachings of Jesus about power and suffering between two stories of recovery of sight. Jesus had already healed a blind man according to Mark 8. And now we have Bartimaeus. When Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” of his disciples, they responded by asking for worldly power, while Bartimaeus responded by asking for sight. When Jesus healed the man, he noted that it was his faith that healed him. In a way, the story is ironic because the disciples who were supposedly not blind, could not see, while the blind man was the one who was able to see Jesus for what he was. The disciples asked for power, while the blind man asked for wholeness. He was lifted up as an example of faith, while they were rebuked for their lack of vision and understanding.

 

For Reflection:

The contrast between the blindness of the disciples and the vision of the blind man is the irony of the Gospel (the good news of Jesus). This is how the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ turns our world upside down. In the kingdom of God, the values of the world are transformed!  Here a few lessons to learn from these two examples:

1.    Being Ready Is Not About Control or Power: Overthinking, control, and power are about satisfying the needs and fears of our egos. True readiness is about being humble and open about our need for healing.

  1. We can’t manipulate God: The disciples demanded the following, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” God knows what is best for us before we even realize it. Our work is to get our egos out of the way. That is how we take responsibility for our own shadow stuff.

3.    Only grace is powerful enough to heal us: Step 6 is about learning to be in the flow of God’s grace. Most of the time, we isolate ourselves from the flow. Our resentments, fears, thoughts, and patterns of behavior often keep us stuck in ways that afflict us. Therefore, when it comes to Step 6 we have to open ourselves up to God in a different way than we normally do. We can’t overthink, control, or manufacture God’s grace. What we can do is learn to let it flow through us. Richard Rohr writes, “Step 6 manages to again talk paradoxically. It says that we must first fully own and admit that we have ‘defects of character,’ but then equally, step back and do nothing about it, as it were, until we are ‘entirely ready’ to let God do the job!…It seems we must both surrender and take responsibility…God is humble and never comes if not first invited, but God will find some clever way to get invited.”

Breathing Lesson by Richard Rohr:

What is your favorite metaphor for the Holy Spirit? Pair that image with your need to let go of some character defect. Spend time reflecting on it in prayer. Then find a creative way (writing, visual arts, dance) to express what you’ve discovered. Find a way to keep this image present as you move forward on your journey.

 

Sit in a comfortable chair with your hands relaxed in your lap, palms facing up. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply several times. Pray Mary’s words, “Let is be done to me according to your word.” Continue to focus on your breathing. Notice how this prayer makes you feel.

 

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Weekly Bible Devotionals

Written by Pastor Roula Alkhouri

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