|image courtesy of thedailyblog.co.nz|
“What do you want?”
Without the benefit of context or spoken inflection, this question is not all it might appear, and yet we hear it all the time.
“What do you want for your birthday / Christmas present?” (My answer: I never know. The only thing I need is more time, and that doesn’t appear in the catalogues.)
“What do you want for dinner?” (Hoping the three ingredients in the fridge might cover it.)
I confess I have not always given the right answer to this question. In my first career, as a Book Department Manager for a large branch of WH Smith, I was asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” In other words, “What do you want as a short-term goal with us?” Surrounded by an oval table-full of other managers, I heard myself say, “Well, I’m not sure, but I do know I won’t be in this company.” Whoops. One of those occasions when you don’t even realise what you want until you hear yourself say it.
And what about those times when you think, afterwards, with some indignation, “You did ask me what I wanted!” In recent years, there have been two occasions on the phone when two different people issued the challenge, “Just tell me what you want, Jane!” Twice, I have responded by saying exactly what I wanted and, twice, I have heard the dialling tone as reply. Whoops, again.
In the Bible, there is a classic case of Jesus asking the question and, at first glance, it seems ridiculous. In front of Jesus is a blind man, Bartimaeus. Unable to support himself or his family and finding himself unable to claim disability benefit, he spends his days begging in the precinct. He comes face to face with Jesus, a man universally acclaimed to be wise as well as good. Yet, Jesus asks the man, “What do you want me to do for you?” Not surprisingly, Bart says, “I want to see.” I imagine a touch of irony in his tone. But, whether said sarcastically or as a heartfelt cry for help, the result is simple: Jesus heals him.
Is the thing-you-want-most-of-all obvious to anyone around you? Or is it something so precious, so dear to your heart, that you wouldn’t breathe it to a soul? As writers, some of our wants are the expected ones: to have an audience, a readership, a publishing contract. Some are really general: it doesn’t matter who reads my book, just so long as someone out there does. Some are painfully specific: I pray that this particular person is healed, restored through what I write.
No matter. Jesus stands before us all with the question, “What do you want?” I hope that you feel brave enough to let the words slip past your lips. The rest is down to Him.
Jane Clamp is Groups' Coordinator for ACW. She is Creative Writer in Residence on the Sunday Breakfast Show of BBC Radio Norfolk and on the Thought of the Day team at Premier Radio.