I’ve read (and loved) the story of “Poor Bartimaeus” from Read-Aloud Bible Stories approximately three billion times. (I’ve read the actual text from the gospels at least a couple of times, as well.)
How can you not love this?
“Jesus said…’You may see,’
“…And all at once– Bartimaeus saw the sun. Bartimaeus saw the trees. Bartimaeus saw the houses. Bartimaeus saw the people.
“But best of all–Bartimaeus saw Jesus.”
I read this story in the gospel of Matthew for some Bible study homework this week, and I was moved by the simple prayer of Bartimaeus and the other blind man: “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”
I’m really good at spying the obvious details, so this one stood out to me: The blind men knew to pray this prayer because they knew that they were blind.
This is a distinct advantage that they had over, say, the disciples, who are told POINT BLANK just twelve verses earlier that Jesus would be betrayed, crucified, and resurrected and yet who were caught completely off guard when it actually happened. And in the story immediately preceding, those same disciples bicker over who gets to be the Vice President in Jesus’ kingdom, despite his repeated lessons on the first being last.
They were so blinded by their long-held expectations for what the Messiah and his kingdom would look like, they completely missed the point of what Jesus was doing right in front of them. (And not just this once; it happens so many times it’s embarrassing.)
Knowledge of their own blindness is an advantage the men had over me, too. Stephen and I have noticed a tendency in ourselves (and I have a theory we’re not the only ones) to construct a narrative that makes sense of the people and circumstances around us. “No one really wants to be my friend.” “I can’t count on her to keep her word.” “She will never be satisfied, no matter how much I do.” “Everyone I love lets me down.”
When we think we’ve got the world and all our neighbors pegged, we look for evidence that supports our theories. And then any time someone does want to be our friend, or the “flake” does keep her word, or our loved ones come through for us, we dismiss the moment as a fluke (or twist it to fit our expectations by assigning dubious motives).
Lord, let our eyes be opened.
I’m sobered to think of how many opportunities I’ve missed, how many relationships I’ve sabotaged, how many blessings I’ve forfeited because I was looking at people and circumstances with eyes blinded by assumptions, by expectations, by pride, by self-centered oblivion, by busy preoccupation with useless matters.
Lord, let my eyes be opened.
I can only imagine what will happen when this prayer is answered:
I’ll see the sun (& pause to give thanks).
I’ll see the trees (not just the forest).
I’ll see the houses (with neighbors inside).
I’ll see the people (not just the caricatures I’ve invented).
And most of all, I’ll see Jesus.