Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Throwing off our cloaks

THERE ARE TWO kinds of comfort zones that we can get trapped in that may keep us from experiencing all that God has for us (and for others through us): 1) those we choose for ourselves and 2) those we allow others to impose on us.

Both have the same fruit—comfort, of course—but they stem from different roots. We can choose to stay within the confines of the ways we know and like because they feel good to us. Or, we can do so because that makes others feel good.

I’ve written before of the challenge to be found in the story of the two blind men healed by Jesus as He was leaving Jericho. Knowing He was passing by, they made everyone around them uncomfortable by shouting out to get His attention. They didn’t care what people thought of them; defying social niceties, they got what they wanted: a life-changing encounter with Jesus.

When it comes to the comfort zones we allow others to establish around us, there’s a challenge in what is probably another version of the same story. But this one focuses on just one of the two men: Bartimaeus.

When he cries out to Jesus despite the efforts of those around to shush him, the account in Mark’s Gospel notes how Jesus heard and called for Bartimaeus to come to him. And “throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus” (Mark 10:50).

Two things to observe here. Jesus didn’t ask others to help Bartimaeus to help him forward. He came on his own. Presumably, that was a bit awkward. Did he bump into people as he made his way, hands out in front of him? So? There’s a time and place when others’ potential discomfort is secondary to our need for Jesus.

And then, Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak. This was an item of clothing that, in those times, designated him as a beggar. This identity others had given him came with good intentions, but it was also limiting.

How many of us have accepted the identities others have given us? Ones that may be well-meaning but restrictive? Do we need to throw them off and walk away from them, just as Bartimaeus did, to receive more from Jesus?

We know what happened when Bartimaeus did: he received his sight and his life was forever changed.

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