Broken Yoke Ministries, Inc
And What Do You Ask of God (Revisited)
Bob Van Domelen
Note: This was the lead article for March 1999 and, like the March-April edition, I decided to reprint it and add some current reflections.
Some days were good days for the blind man as he sat among the beggars just outside of Jericho. Other days were not. This day, however, his life would be changed, for Jesus of Nazareth was coming down the road.
The blind man called out "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those near him told him to be quiet, but he called out all the louder, "JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!" Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."
So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! Get on your feet! He's calling you." The man threw aside his cloak, jumped to his feet, and came to Jesus.
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."
"Go, your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
(Based on Mark 10.46-52)
We aren't told whether or not the man had been born blind, but most of those who were blind earned their living by begging. No one offered them a cure, a return of their sight, just a place to sit in designated areas where those who felt so inclined might show pity and toss a few coins. I can almost hear their words as the coins were dropped, "You were born blind--probably a sin of your parents."
“There is no known 'cure' for sexual deviancy at this time." So reads the first of a list of concepts that form the foundation of one state's treatment program for sexual offenders. How would that statement balance with "There is no known 'cure' for blindness at this time." I would pray that in the first sentence, the words at this time might hold the desire for a time when there would be.
The blind man would have remained blind had he not persisted, had he not demanded to be heard. Jesus called to him, and he threw aside his cloak, perhaps fearing that he might trip because of it. His faith drove him forward, the desire of his heart--to be able to see as others saw--acting like a magnet.
Jesus didn't immediately say the healing words the man expected to hear, but instead asked what the blind man wanted him to do. The blind man simply said, "I want to see."
Maybe I am looking at this the wrong way. Maybe the statement "There is no known 'cure' for sexual deviancy at this time" is really the state acknowledging the sin and not the sinner. Somehow I doubt that. Sin and sinner become interchangeable in most prison settings.
Before some of you get the idea that I am advocating the elimination of state-run treatment programs altogether, I will assure you that I am not. In my own group treatment, I came face to face with parts of myself that I had never faced with honesty before. I saw my selfishness, my misguided lust, and my ignorance exposed. But because of balance offered in Bible studies and chapel activities, I also saw that not all was evil within me, and came to believe with all my heart that Jesus was asking me, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Make this all go away" was not a request that the Lord answered. Instead, He touched my heart and brought reality to the words "And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time (Matthew 28.20)."
After the blind man received his sight, those who knew him didn't continue to refer to him as Bartimaeus, the blind man, but more likely as Bartimaeus, the man who was once blind but now could see. And it is highly probable that Bartimaeus himself never forgot that he had been a blind beggar. Scripture does tell us that he followed Jesus along the road.
Being able to see was not the end, however, but the beginning. Perhaps some of the man's attitudes in the past had been excused because of his blindness. Having received his sight, those attitudes would have to change. Where before his work day consisted of sitting among the beggars, now he would need to find some other means of supporting himself. We aren't told how he would do these things because the focus of the story was on the mercy and love of Jesus. But the fact remains, the blind man met Jesus and was blind no more.
At some point in my own treatment, I finally accepted the truth that I had molested and had done great harm. Scraping away the layers of denial is never an easy or painless thing to do, and when that truth hit me in the face, I was devastated. I felt the millstone around my neck and the weight of despair pulling me down. But that's not where God wanted me to remain. God wanted me to experience the redemption won on my behalf through the death of Jesus on the cross.
What a miracle! What incredible joy I felt in knowing and believing that my sins had been forgiven! But I was still in prison. I still had group meetings, wore prison clothing, and felt the forced physical isolation from those I loved. Yet it was different.
God did not strip away the difficulties of prison life. He didn't make my return home free of tension, nor did He lay everything in my lap as time passed. He simply reminded me that He was with me in ALL things.
If a system of treatment proclaims "Once a sex offender, always a sex offender," it falls far short of what it could do for those desiring a new life. Such a system will find itself unable to reach beyond its own human limitations. So what, then, is the answer?
In my humble opinion, nothing speaks truth louder than the truth of consistency, the truth of living in the manner in which one is meant to live, day after day, year after year. The state does not have to prove itself. I have to prove myself. So do you. The question now remains, "What is it that you ask of God?"
At some point during my time of confinement I believed that while there was a lack of understanding regarding treatment for those with sex-related charges, things would most certainly improve. Over the years, treatment programs have been developed, uniform criteria for successful completion set, and a belief by states that they were on the right track existed.
In most cases, certificates, diplomas, or degrees are earmarks of success that merit words of congratulations and open doors for future opportunities. Not only do doors of opportunity not open for having completed sex offender treatment but graduation has done little if anything to alter the label assigned at the time of arrest: sex offender.
As I shared in the 1999 article, participation in bible studies and chapel activities showed me that I was not all evil. I had done evil but came to believe that God did not want me to remain in that identity. And in my heart, I felt God asking me “What do you want me to do for you?”
Like the blind man, I wanted to see and live like others who did not give in to deviant thoughts and desires. Like the blind man, I knew I would always remember what it was like to be the man sentenced to prison. And like the blind man, I wanted to walk with the knowledge that God was always with me, always encouraging me.
Others then and still want me to walk in the shame of my actions – chosen over 30 years ago – but I don’t need them to remind me of the harm I caused. Choosing good, choosing God is always a choice made that rejects what is not good, what is not of God.
It occurred to me, however, that I needed to ask again “What do YOU ask of God?” And if God answered your prayer by giving you what you asked for, what would you ask for next? What if you and I asked for the same thing? What if that request was “I want you, Lord, just you!”?