What Do You Want?

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” (John 1:35-38)

A group of about 30 students meditated on this piece of scripture at this past weekend’s Church Vocations retreat. On Friday night, when we first read this text, there was no sermon. No Bible Study guide. Instead, we sat quietly and used the ancient practice of Lectio Divina to help us listen for the Spirit moving through the words. 

I tried to quiet my overly-analytical mind as my colleague, Rachel, read the passage and asked us the first question of Lectio Divina: What word or phrase grabs your attention? The idea is that the word or phrase may guide us to a question we have and/or a way that God is trying to speak to us.

“They followed.” I wrote in my journal, then drew a bolt of lightning around the words. What struck me about that phrase was the suddenness of it. Their teacher, their master, pointed and said, That’s the messiah I’ve been telling you about!, and his disciples immediately followed. And that was it. They became part of the Twelve Disciples. Following Jesus was their life forever.

What was amazing to me, though, was not that huge, life-changing impact – it was the certainty, the clarity that convicted them to leave one way of life for another. 

Now that I’m out of the focus and stillness of the retreat and back into my normal life, I can see why that clarity was so startling to me. Our lives are so cluttered. Just trying to prioritize my to-do list and my inbox feels like jumping into a whirlwind. And then I’m trying to get through that work and be super attentive to whoever walks into my office. And then there are the words Work-Life Balance hanging over my head. 

If, somewhere in the midst of that maelstrom, I have the opportunity to sit down and listen for God’s voice – and thank God for daily Morning Prayer, which gives me the discipline to actually do so – if I can clear my head and slow the rush of cortisol enough to be present….well, then it seems to create the space for warring messages to throw smoke bombs in my head.

I think maybe God is calling me to – but the tradition from my childhood would not like that!

This news source says this is what’s going on – but this other one is interpreting it totally differently…

This wise person in my life is saying X — but another friend is saying Y.

And, to draw on Pastor Jim’s latest devotion on imposter syndrome, there is always that voice: Who are you to think you know what God says anyway?

The disciples’ clarity and decisiveness seems to me just as miraculous as the feeding of the 5,000. They hear that Jesus is the Messiah. They follow. So simple.

,And then Jesus turns around and asks them, “What do you want?” 

And perhaps that question can be our handhold as we struggle to hear God’s clarity through the chaos of our duties and the barrage of mixed messages.

“What do you want?” 

The question is important not because God’s Kingdom revolves around us;  it certainly does not. 

The question is important because ours is the only voice we can hear with confident clarity. It helps us see ourselves honestly.

It is important because it is at the place of our questions and longings that God meets us and speaks to us to guide us forward. God encounters our most honest selves – because that’s where the real work of the soul needs to happen.

It is important because it is the place in life where we can have the most direct impact. “You can’t change other people; you can only change yourself,” the therapists remind us. “Deliverance belongs to the Lord,” says the psalmist (Ps. 3:8).

When we find ourselves in the whirlwind, we can reach for that question – “What do you want?” – and invite God to be near. It’s at least a good place to start.

O Lord, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

I do not occupy myself with great matters

Or with things that are too hard for me.

But I still my soul and make it quiet,

Like a child upon its mother’s breast;

My soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, wait upon the Lord,

From this time forth forevermore. (Ps. 131)

Sept. 21, 2022

Pr. Kate

Rev. Katherine Museus Dabay serves as university pastor at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University and takes turns writing weekly devotions with University Pastor James A. Wetzstein.