Why It Helps To Know What You Really Want

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As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who lead the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Luke 18:35–42

I’ve heard this story three times in the last week, in three different places. That question standing out, bold and italicised:

What do you want me to do for you?

It’s easy to answer such a question from the shallow places: I want you to get me a great parking space; I want to you to stop this rain; I want you to make my computer work.

But if we stay with the question a bit longer it begins to work its way deeper inside us. It becomes uncomfortable, scary, even.

You don’t have to be in this world for very long before you realise that what you want and what you get can be two very different things. Our most tender, painful places often come from the ways in which life hasn’t worked out like we thought it would; where what we hoped for has not materialised yet, and maybe won’t ever; where some of our most dearly held dreams lay broken in the dust.

That one question calls back to our minds all the times we’ve answered it before and yet felt overlooked, ignored or forgotten. It is a doorway into our deepest disappointments and vulnerabilities. We wonder: can I really trust Jesus with my answers to this question? What about all the times my needs weren’t met? What if I tell Jesus what I want and still nothing changes?

These kinds of questions need us to sit with them a while. They need time and space. They need room to breathe and get an airing in the presence of a trustworthy friend. If we hide them away and pretend everything is fine when it isn’t, they fester like an untreated wound.

Learning to admit what it is we really want is a way back to healing. It is a way of owning our own story — all of it — not just the parts that have a happy ending. We can’t be whole if there are some parts of ourselves we choose to orphan, or ignore.

We’re not very used to thinking about what we want, beyond the surface comforts of life. And maybe we’ve buried our dreams because seems selfish to consider our own wants and we’re frightened of where our answers might lead us.

But notice in the story, Jesus doesn’t ask, what do you think God wants? Or what do your family need? Or what do your friends expect? He says What do you want me to do for you? And if Jesus is asking a question, I’m thinking it’s a good idea to answer it.

So here’s what I did: I made a list. I wrote down the title, What I want in my journal and I just started to list things. As I began to write, I listed things I didn’t even realise I wanted. It felt like vulnerability and honesty and freedom.

Did making that list get me everything I ever wanted? No. But it felt the start of a conversation. It felt like a welcome mat at the door of my own soul. It felt like bringing some of the abandoned parts of myself closer to home.

Jesus asks us this question — What is it that you want me to do for you? — because he knows it will lead us to healing and wholeness. We are wise if we answer him.