Our guest blogger for this week is the lovely Maartje whose voice I’ve only heard and who lives in France. She has been introduced to me by other guest blogger Sophia who lives in the Netherlands, so we haven’t personally met (yet). Maartje is a regular writer and just like me she also prefers to write in English. Enjoy and be motivated reading her testimony!
The Courage of Bartimaeus
Two years ago, I lived in Marseille to volunteer in a Christian community and little did I know that this experience would turn out to be a life saving event. The reason I went there was not only to volunteer. I needed to be far from my home country (the Netherlands) because I was devastated, lost and afraid. After my studies in Social Work, I really questioned myself: who am I? I was so used to live for others and to spend my time and energy on others, that I kind of abandoned myself. Life was hard and I was traumatised, but I didn’t speak about it. The easy way was to hide it. I think we all understand what it is to feel broken, completely missed out or lost. It overcomes us all because life can be difficult, but we know that we all get out of it stronger! Especially when you take Jesus’ hand. I take you with me on this journey:
Sitting on an old bench in front of the Mediterranean sea, with my notebook on my lap and my French bible in my hand, one of the biggest transformations started in me.
A priest proposed that we meditate on the story of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), according to the Ignatian spirituality. Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish cleric and founder of the Jesuit order. A religious order of people who serve Christ in all poverty. His life story was turned upside down in May 1521 during the French siege of Pamplona where he was leading the Spanish troops. As he stood on the walls, a cannonball hit him and injured both his legs. A long way of recovery was ahead of him and it is here where his journey of spirituality started. The Ignatius spirituality is sober and simple, as it is for his way of meditation. First, you read a passage of the bible three or four times and then you try to visualize everything. You stop at the words or phrases that touch you, negatively or positively. Then you ask God what He wants to teach you through all of this. After 30 minutes of meditation, you ask for a grace, based on the new revelations you have had during prayer. Interested in an Ignatius spiritual retreat? Go to https://www.chemin-neuf.fr/nos-propositions/retraites-spirituelles/ for more information. (It’s a French but international community. It exists in several countries).
I started to read the passage, at the same time thirsty for salvation, clarity and peace.
Mark 10:46 – And they came to Jericho: and when he was going out of Jericho, with his disciples and a great number of people, the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, a blind man, was seated by the wayside, with his hand out for money.
I am not blind. Yet I felt I could identify with Bartimaeus: I felt lost, broken, and I didn’t see anything clear about who I am and about my destiny, my future, my mission. How is it possible that I can see all the good around me with my eyes, but still I don’t find what I’m looking for? My hand reached out, not for money, but for anything that gives me healing and meaning.
Psalm 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Jesus is on His way with His disciples, the people who chose to let go of everything and to follow Him wherever He goes to heal what is broken. They were just normal human beings, with their weaknesses, wounds, their sin and their complexity. Yet they were able to leave everything behind, just to follow Jesus, because they believed instantly: He is our healer and we have a mission to heal as well what is broken in this world.
Mark 10 – 47 And when it came to his [Bartimaeus] ears that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he gave a cry, and said, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. 48 And some of them, turning in protest, gave him an order to be quiet: but he went on crying out all the more, Son of David, have mercy on me.
When I continued to read these verses, I felt amazed by the power and courage of Bartimaeus to cry out to Jesus. The people who gave him the order to be quiet, can be a symbol of your own thoughts. I think we all recognize it when you have a passionate or strong urge to cry out for help, but your thoughts cut you off by saying: “Help? you should be ashamed!”, “Don’t exaggerate.” or “Nobody can help you”. I discovered that these thoughts were the cause that I never let myself cry out for help. I wish now that I dared to say to the Lord before: “Lord, I’m not fine! Help me out!’ or “Lord, comfort me! Show me the way!’. Instead of asking for help, I tried to solve it on my own. The reaction to this was putting the focus on everyone else but myself. This made me in the end blind for who God wants me to be.
Mark 10:49 – And Jesus came to a stop and said, Let him come. And crying out to the blind man, they said to him, Be comforted: come, he has sent for you.
Here I discovered again that Jesus is not like our thoughts. He doesn’t cut off what we say or think. The only thing He wants us to do is to share it. “Let him come” and “Be comforted”.
I realised that even in front of God I kept on pretending that everything was fine. But at the same time my body started to ache, no doctor could find out what it was, and inside of me, I felt something was about to die. Now I understand that if you don’t take care of your soul, this will impact everything visible in your life. You will have other friends, you will not be able to achieve things with passion, and your body can act strange. I know a lot of people who complain for years about painful shoulders, intestinal cramps or skin problems. They are completely healthy, but are they on the path that Jesus prepared for us?
Mark 10:50 – And he, putting off his coat, got up quickly, and came to Jesus.
Bartimaeus was really courageous. He had nothing. No sight, no money, no friends, no house, only a coat. But he was so confident in Jesus, his Saviour, that he was able to throw his coat off to show himself to Jesus. I asked myself the question: what is my coat? What do I still carry around me as my last protection? From this moment I understood that my control over my life took away the opportunity to be healed. I had my hands on my past and my sadness. I told nobody about my deepest fear. What if by doing this I lost even more dignity than I already lost before?
Mark 10:51 – And Jesus said to him, What would you have me do to you? And the blind man said, Master, make me able to see.
Do you all see this question? I bolded it so that you can focus on it. Read it a few times, as I did back then in Marseille, 2018. Jesus asks you a simple question. But I think you will have the same struggle as I had. We all know how we feel and what is not going well in our lives, but what do we want to ask Him? It’s a question that takes us out of our chaotic thoughts and brings us to the concrete: what do you want Jesus to do to you? Jesus is saviour. He heals what is broken. With this question, He directly invites you to open the door towards it.
Bartimaeus gave me a real push because of his courage and I felt the urge to do the same.
I bowed my head and I prayed as ‘loud’ as I could (I couldn’t scream like Bartimaeus because we were in silence): “God, heal my body so that I can live again! I want to do Your mission, I want to share with others about Your Word and I want to spread Your love there where there is a lack”.
And I can now tell you. That afternoon, two people asked to pray for me. I told them about the pain in my body. After 20 minutes of prayer, I was running in the garden without any pain. The next morning there was no rebound and still, I felt good and without pain. From that moment on, I knew that God saw my faith and He responded to me by healing my body. Now, november 2021, I can tell you how much work I did afterwards for the ‘lost’ youth in Holland. I did sports with them, I made music and I danced. I was able to carry young kids without trouble and I spoke about Jesus.
Mark 10:52 – And Jesus said to him, Go on your way; your faith has made you well. And straight away he was able to see, and went after him on the way.
Bartimaeus became a disciple of Jesus, right after his healing. But don’t forget he remained a human being. When we are once healed, it doesn’t mean that we are done! Every day God invites us to call upon His Name. He will come to us and he will ask us the same question:
“What would you have me to do to you?”
Life is not easy, and it can injure us. Now I’m married but I can assure you that I still need God’s continuous healing to make me more free and a better person.
Also, there will be days that we feel that we have nothing to ask. Then act like Job:
Job 33:33 – If you have nothing to say, listen to Me in all silence, and I will teach you wisdom.
Never forget to formulate your question, every day, and God will set you free for the day and will send you on a mission. If you don’t know it? Be still. Our thoughts need God’s wisdom. I would like to end with this song:
Still, my soul be still
And do not fear
Though winds of change may rage tomorrow
God is at your side
No longer dread
The fires of unexpected sorrow
God, You are my God
And I will trust in You and not be shaken
Lord of peace renew
A steadfast spirit within me
To rest in You alone(…)
Social Worker (Youth and Family)