Two Aspects of Blindness
Many of us have asked for the Lord to open our eyes. Yet many of us are satisfied with a superficial “healing”. It is not the single touch that brings complete spiritual healing; it is the continual grasp of faith. Consider Virgil, another case study from Dr. Sacks.
Virgil had been virtually blind since early childhood. He had thick cataracts and had been diagnosed as having a condition that would lead to the slow deterioration of his retinas. After becoming engaged though, Virgil’s fiancé suggested he consult a different specialist. The doctor revised Virgil’s diagnosis. Surgery to improve Virgil’s vision was possible and was done. But Virgil had been blind for a long time, and it turns out that seeing is more than just having functioning eyes.
. . . able to see but not deciphering what he was seeing.
Dr. Sack’s records that “Virgil’s behavior was certainly not that of a sighted man, but it was not that of a blind man, either. It was, rather, the behavior of a mentally blind, or agnosic — able to see but not to decipher what he was seeing.” (An Anthropologist on Mars, 117)
Did you catch the significance of this man’s condition? He could see, but he did not know what he was seeing.
As soon as I read this, I thought of the story of the blind man in Mark 8:24-25.
“Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Then He put His hands on his eyes and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.”
It is the only healing recorded that required a second touch from Jesus. Why? Jesus healed people by just saying a word, but with this man a second touch was required. I believe that the Lord was revealing something about the healing process that doesn’t generally occur to us.
We are so flippant about sight because we don’t remember the early years when we learned what it was we were looking at. Every other blind person Jesus healed received both aspects of sight: the anatomical problem was repaired and the ability to decipher what was seen was received. The miracles are more miraculous than we understand.
What does this have to do with our spiritual blindness? The cure is more profound than we realize because the problem is deeper than we grasp. It is not just that we cannot see; but even if we could, we wouldn’t understand what we are seeing.
I’ve experienced this with students in Anatomy class. I explain a physiological process. They can repeat back the words I used; they may even have them written in their notes. But when it comes to the test, they cannot explain the process in their own words. They don’t know what they are looking at.
This happens very often when we study God’s word. Because our faith (our eye sight) is so weak we don’t really see the significance of what we are looking at. Truth can be right in front of our noses, but we close the book and continue with the same confused beliefs as before. We need that second touch.
“Okay.” You might say. “Maybe I have been content with a surface experience. Maybe I’ve made excuses for my shallow relationship with Jesus.” This reveals another type of blindness — willful blindness.
Dr. Sacks continues to explain Virgil’s conditions:
Bob [a colleague of Dr. Sack’s] and I were struck by the fact that Virgil would only look, would attend visually, only if one asked him to or pointed something out — not spontaneously. . . . One does not see, or sense, or perceive in isolation — perception is always linked to behavior and movement, to reaching out and exploring the world. It is insufficient to see; one must look as well. . . . [In addition to] a perceptual incapacity . . . there was, equally a lack of capacity or impulse to look, to act seeing — a lack of visual behavior. (Anthropologist, 117-118)
Does this sound like your Christian experience? I hope not. Yet many Christians are just like this. They get all their experience of God second hand — usually from a pastor. They don’t study for themselves. They don’t pray. They take no initiative to cultivate a relationship with God. Not because they can’t; simply because they don’t want to exert the effort.
It is insufficient to see; one must look as well.
In Peter’s second epistle, he lists attributes that we are to cultivate. (2 Peter 1:5-7) After concluding the list, Peter adds a warning about neglecting the work of character development: “But he that lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” (2 Peter 1:9) If this work is put off, we will become blind. We will return to the darkness. Not because His touch of healing is insufficient or wears-off, but by continuing in our sinful course something worse befalls us: we stop looking. And we likely won’t even realize that we are blind.
In forgetting that we must continue to abide in Christ and have Christ abide in us, we focus on the symptoms of His absence. We may fret and worry, but we don’t return to Him who is the healing eye salve.
The Eye Salve
After pronouncing the dreadful diagnosis in Revelation 3:17, Jesus immediately gives hope to these wretched and ungrateful people: “I [Jesus] Counsel you to buy from Me . . . and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
Would we really image that our loving God would pronounce that baleful diagnosis if there was not hope? After all He is the light of the world (John 12:46).
The darkness that our enemy has spread over this world is thick and impenetrable unless we have the “Light that gives light to every man” abiding in us. (John 1:9) Satan may whisper in your ear that you are not really blind; that you in and of yourself you can navigate this life. Yet we are admonished to “walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7) And this faith is not something that we can create ourselves. It is Jesus’ faith (Rev. 3:17) which He gives to each of His beloved children as a gift.
Abide in the light; He is the light of the world. Only as we abide in Him can we see. He is the eye salve of Revelation 3:17. As we abide in Him (have the eye salve applied) our vision becomes clearer. We see our wretchedness more onlybecause we see Him more clearly.
We sometimes get focused on the wrong things. We forget to look to the spiritual not just the temporal. There should be a bigger reason to smile and speak kindly to the clerk at the check-out or the head elder than just to “be nice”.
Our vision gets distorted, for our eyesight is still relatively new (in comparison with eternity) and is therefore still weak. As the eye salve is continually applied our vision gets clear and stronger.
Through the prophet Isaiah, our Redeemer promised to bring us wretched blind sinners to Himself. We don’t recognize the path He is on. We don’t really see it. But if we will follow by faith, we will find that the way is straight. And whereas our feet had been obscured by darkness, we have sufficient light to take each step with confidence. Best of all, Jesus will be our continual companion.
I will bring the blind by a way they did not know;
I will lead them in paths they have not known.
I will make darkness light before them,
And crooked placed straight.
These things I will do for them,
And not forsake them.
God’s way is new to us. We live in a “self-help” and “do-it-yourself” society. This is the crooked thing God wants to make straight by revealing to us that we can’t cure our (self-imposed) blindness, but He can. He is the cure. The cure is not a pair of glasses that He gives us and sends us on our way. When we are apart from Him (not depending on Him, not abiding in Him), we are blind.
But we have the choice. If we fight against the evidence or stop abiding, we will regress back into spiritual blindness. Although we may not become “worldly”, we will return to “groping” in the darkness: trying to be righteous people on our own — it will never happen. Or we can commit to a journey, a treatment, of a lifetime. Dying daily to self and seeking Christ’s leading moment by moment.