John 9:1-41 tells a story about blindness and sight, darkness and light. 

On the one hand, this is a story about Jesus giving sight to a man born blind – light to a man who had lived his entire life in darkness.  On the other hand, it is also a story about people who thought they possessed light and sight, but are actually shown to be bumping around blindly in the dark. 

If we read this biblical story properly it will challenge us to face our blindness and look toward the one who offers us sight and light. 

Last Sunday the folks from Patterson Avenue Baptist were very kind about my daughter, Michelle, as she shared some words about what’s been happening while she’s been away at college.  We ask our scholarship recipients to do this sort of thing from time to time.

Michelle spoke well for herself as she spoke about the work of God in her life.  That she did so well was not a big surprise to me.  She’s been in front of an audience almost all her life.  She is a gifted communicator.  Still, there was one challenge for her that morning.  It’s a challenge she faces every time she’s in front of a crowd and must read words, rather than speak from the heart.  It was evident if people watched closely while she read the scripture? 

Michelle suffers from a rather serious visual impairment.  To read the Bible she needs extra large print, her contact lenses, and then must hold the text up close to her fact.  Even with corrected vision, her ability to see is greatly impaired. 

We first noticed that something might be amiss when she was almost five years old.  We had attended a performance of “Disney on Ice” at the Norfolk Scope arena with another couple and their child.  We had good seats close to the ice, but she was having problems.  She kept asking: “Who is that?” as she looked at the characters on the ice.  If she heard their voice, she could recognize them.  If not, she had to ask.

We made an appointment with the eye-doctor shortly after this event. Within a week, Michelle was in eyeglasses.  She wore dark-rimmed thick lenses – the kind of eyeglasses that would get her teased a good bit when she started school.  It was all worth any problems that first night she wore the glasses.  We had been out at dinner with a friend.  When we got out of the car at the house, Michelle looked up in the sky and asked:  “What that?” 

“What’s what?” I replied.

“Those lights in the sky!” she said.

“Honey, those are stars!” I replied.

“Oh, they are so beautiful, Daddy.  I always wondered what they looked like!”

Four almost the first five years of her life she had never seen a star.  As a family we had sung songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.”  As it turns out Michelle really did wonder what a star was.  She had never seen one!

Eye-glasses (and later, contact lenses) have helped a bit, but there are still problems.  Large print books are not sufficient – she needs giant sized print.  She needs accommodations at school – special treatment, if you will, to allow he to function on an equal footing with other students.  Driving has always been an issue.  She will never be issued a Driver’s License that will allow her to drive past sunset.   She has to rely on others to get her from place to place.

The ability to see clearly has always been a challenge for Michelle – at least physically.  But she is able to see well in other ways. 

She has always been able to see the hurts and pains of others – and be moved with compassion to act on their behalf.

She has always been able to see the unfairness of social systems – and be moved to act courageously to make for a more just society.

Frankly, I think my daughter is a pretty remarkable person.  Despite her visual impairment, she sees better than most healthy sited people I know.

Even since we discovered Michelle’s visual impairment, I have not been able to read passages in the Bible about blindness the same.  Take the scripture lesson for this coming Sunday’s sermon, as an example.  It speaks of a man who wasn’t just visually impaired – he was totally blind.  Yet despite this fact, by the end of the story he not only has been healed of his physical blindness, he is also revealed to have more spiritual insight than the religious leaders of his day, than his own neighbors and family, better even than the disciples who had been following Jesus for several years.

This biblical story is about blindness and sight, darkness and light.  It’s a drama in seven scenes in which one man is moving from blindness to sight while all the others in the story are moving from having sight into blindness.

This kind of story challenges us to face our blindness and look toward the one who offers us sight and light.  Follow along over the next few days as we reflect on the one who is light and gives sight to the world.

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