My friend Mike told me a story about when he was in one of those groups where they do trust-building exercises. He described an exercise that involved several men being blindfolded and led into a room where a maze had been created with ropes. The objective was for each blindfolded man to find his way out of the maze. If I recall correctly there was just one rule:
If you have a question don’t yell it out; raise your hand and someone will come to you.
After some time wandering around following the rope by hand, Mike heard one of the leaders say “One smart man found his way out!”. Several minutes later he heard “Another smart man found his way out!”. Then again, the same announcement. Then another. Then it dawned on him. Mike stopped, let go of the rope he had been following, and raised his hand. One of the leaders came over and asked if he had a question.
Mike said, “I need help. Will you help me?”
The leader then removed Mike’s blindfold, raised the rope out of the way, and whispered through a smile, “Follow me!” Just like that, Mike was out of the maze, no longer blindfolded. When he could see the scene, he observed 4 guys standing outside the infinitely-looped maze, and several guys still wandering around inside it. He broke down in tears. This is one of the reasons I love Mike so much… his compassion, when he lets it out, is utterly heart-melting. I cry tears of joy to see, again, my friend is a deep, deep river of great compassion. I am incredibly rich with deep friendships like this.
We who have met Jesus are no longer blind but somehow many of us are still wearing blindfolds. Some say its “blindspots” but it’s the same result. We cannot see how to get out of our never-ending maze. Perhaps its habitual sin, or addiction, or grief, or trauma. Or our perspective of God has shifted so that we cannot see that He is infinitely good. Whatever the cause, we are hopelessly stuck as we try to find our way out by ourselves.
My experiences in recovery were the first glimpse of this truth: there are times when no amount of willpower or experience or skill or knowledge will lead us to freedom from <fill-in-the-blank>. Yet we persist in our quest for Do-It-Yourself spirituality.
Today I am free from addiction, thank God. Only because I was desperate enough to ask for help once. But I stumble over other things, seemingly daily. At the same time, there is this aching, echoing place in my soul that yearns for freedom from the very things I hoard like a greedy child: resentments, fears, self-incrimination, judgment, blah, blah, blah.
I am reading a book by Anne Lamott titled, “Hallalujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy”. I can’t endorse it enough. It is real, raw, funny, tear-jerking, soul-searching, funny, and wretchedly honest. Did I mention it’s funny? Ms. Lamott included this in the book:
“As C. S. Lewis supposedly said, we don’t have souls, we are souls: we have bodies.”
That C.S. cracks me up.
Lamott also recounts the biblical story of the woman at the well; the Samaritan woman that came in the heat of the day to draw water. Jesus was there, resting. A lengthy conversation takes place. I do hope you find the time to read the book because there is great revelation recorded there. In short, it is about Mercy and Compassion: these legitimately life-changing and powerful gifts of Love Himself.
The thing that most appeals to me about Mike’s story is that – without meaning to – he gives himself away. He accidentally reveals himself to be one who cares deeply for the damaged people around him. And we who are like Mike indict ourselves in similar fashion because we have more compassion for the ones stumbling around us with blindfolds than we do for ourselves. Perhaps our blindfolds have prevented us from seeing our deep need for compassion also.
The Samaritan woman, Mike, you, me… we’re all in the same boat. We show mercy to others who are ailing, failing, losing the “game”, losing hope, losing their temper, losing at life… but we have some weird hang-up about receiving it ourselves. And this, I think, is one of the reasons it is so difficult for people to accept Jesus at His word. We don’t want to be the recipients… we want to be the hero. Quick! Fetch my superhero cape!
The story of the woman at the well is the beautiful picture of mercy extended by God Himself to the most unworthy of candidates. She eventually takes Jesus up on His offer of mercy after He persists, then promptly runs off to tell others who formerly shunned her. The story ends like this, as given in John 4:
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
On that day, Mercy was waiting for the Samaritan woman. But this is not the end of the story, is it?
“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” John 13:5
Perhaps today is our turn to deliver the message of Mercy to another blindfolded ragamuffin.