Everywhere I turn I keep getting the same question from friends lately: Have you seen that show, Alone? I’ve laughed a few times because how appropriate is a show called “Alone” in 2020? Doesn’t it sound like it could cover any of our lives right now? Alone, the story of 2020. Alone, the story of my daily life as I get up and go downstairs to sit at the kitchen table and find the link for the next Zoom meeting and open up Marco Polo to talk to friends I haven’t seen in person in months.
If you’ve missed it so far, “Alone” is a reality show on the History Channel all about surviving on your own in the wilderness. In its first season, 10 people are dropped off on Vancouver Island with the sole goal of being the last person to remain in the wild. You’re separated from all the other survival experts and armed with camera gear to capture your experience plus a satellite phone for when you’re ready to be evacuated. And, of course, you’re on your own to build a shelter, find food and water, and protect yourself from the natural elements of weather and wild animals.
It’s been a fascinating watch not only because of the skills these trained survivalists have acquired and teach you through the camera, but because in the first day or two, they all have a similar reaction: I had no idea it would be this hard. As survivalists drop out and the weeks tick by, it becomes a mental game. They’ve already figured out the basics of daily life — food, water, stable shelter — and the experience becomes a work of perseverance. How many days do they want to do this? How many days can they physically keep going?
Even though none of us are on Vancouver Island, I think we’d all claim a similar situation. We’re asking ourselves, “How long can I do this?” and we’re feeling the call to perseverance that we know from James 1:4.
About the same time that I started hearing about “Alone,” I read the story of Jesus and a blind man named Bartimaeus in Mark 10.
“And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me! And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.’ And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbi, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.”
Did you catch that? Jesus walks over to the man and asks “What do you want me to do for you?” which feels like a ridiculous question when there appears to be an obvious answer. There must have been people in the crowd who thought (like me), “Uhhhh, Jesus, he’s BLIND. Obviously, he wants to see.” The thing is, though, Jesus has never asked a question He didn’t know the answer to so I’ve been thinking … why would Jesus ask what He asked? For me, two things have become apparent.
First, Jesus doesn’t charge in and take over right away. I love that about Him, don’t you? He’s always at work, of course, but wanted to be invited in by Bartimaeus. And second, Jesus saw greater needs than Bartimaeus’ blindness. However miraculous we think something is for God, Scripture is clear: none of it is impossible for Him. What feels like a life-changing big ask to us, is a non-issue for Him.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Lately I hear it in my head now as I start my day and pause in my work, and to be honest, the answer I often want to give is “Get me out of this!” Get me out of this difficult year and wildly different way of living than I’d imagined six months ago. But that brings me back to the second issue: Jesus sees beyond our obvious needs. The truth? He’s after something much bigger than fixing our job, healing our sickness and repairing our broken plans. He’ll help with those things too, but what He’s after is much bigger. Not only does Jesus give Bartimaeus sight, but He also tells him that his faith has saved him. Mark writes that immediately Bartimaeus could see and started to follow Jesus down the road, literally. Sure, Jesus gave him sight, but Jesus also gave him a whole new life.
I’ve endured difficult circumstances and seasons before, and I know you have too, but this is different — this is a deep cut of perseverance and I feel it at work in me. I feel it stretching me and holding me in place as my wheels grind against the pressure. I want to call the emergency evacuation team and get out, but I also hear Jesus’ voice asking once again, “What do you want me to do for you?” I want out, Jesus, but that is clearly not an option. So, please, make this season — however long it lasts, about whatever You had in mind. You see deeper and wider and further ahead than me. Let perseverance do its work when my backup plans and third options get cancelled as well. Let perseverance do its work on days when life feels small and insular. Let perseverance do its work when I’m weighing the options of what to do next. Let perseverance do its work and let’s continue on down the road.
Wednesdays, Aug. 5 through Aug. 26
noon to 1 p.m. on Zoom
Feeling overwhelmed with fear, stress and anxiety? You’re not the only one. Join Ryan McCarthy for “Overwhelmed: Dealing with Fear, Stress and Anxiety” this August. The class will meet on Zoom for several weeks to talk about what how we can find and live in peace — yep, even 2020. Click here to learn more.
Worship online this Sunday
9 a.m. and 5 p.m. – Contemporary
11 a.m. – Traditional
Looking for community and some good news this week? Gather online with us for church this Sunday! There will be music, communion and we’ll be talking about hope in 1 Peter.
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