by Tara K. E. Brelinsky
Before the pandemic completely seized the world, a Sunday gospel reading detailed the healing of a blind man (Mark 8:22-26). In it, Jesus grasped the man’s hand and led him outside of the village. Then, after applying spittle on the affected eyes, Jesus asked the man if he could see. Indeed the man could see; however, his sight was still not completely restored as he replied that he could, “see men, but they look like trees, walking.” So, Jesus continued His restorative action by touching the man’s eyes again and finally the man was fully healed.
I have to admit that I wasn’t
altogether cognizant of the meaning of this parable. Why, I wondered,
had Jesus not simply healed the blind man’s eyesight all at once?
Certainly, He could have.
Then, on a morning a few days later, as
I was standing beside my bathroom vanity, it was all a little clearer
The Picture That Healed My Blindness
Standing there, having just laid my
toothbrush back into the drawer, I glanced to my right and noticed a
picture. The reality is that my eyes caught sight of an old photocopy
of a drawing. The original source is long forgotten, but years ago
one of my now adult sons stuck the black and white copy into a clear,
plastic frame and set it on his dresser. It sat there until that son
grew up and I re-homed the picture to a corner of my bathroom vanity.
It’s held that position ever since.
On Saturdays, when I clean the
bathrooms I always lift the little frame and wipe the surfaces
beneath it. Occasionally, I’ll swipe my cloth over the smooth sides
of the frame to wash away any settled dust and invisible germs. But,
like so many other familiar things, I rarely take notice of the image
inside of the old frame.
So, on this particular day, the picture
caught me by surprise. On this morning, I looked right and detected
the characters sketched in it. Specifically, I saw the gaze of a
child looking at Jesus. My attention was drawn, like a magnet, into
contemplation as I focused on the eyes of the two figures, the child
Seeing Through Old Eyes
The expression on the little child’s
face was one of loving adoration. The innocence of child-like wonder
and unrestrained admiration penetrated through his soft penciled
eyes. The child’s tender, upward gaze seemed not to notice the horror
of the crown of thorns atop Christ’s head or the Cross crushing His
right shoulder. In contrast, Jesus’s eyes peered down between heavy
lids and shadowed creases. The artist’s skill veiled the depth of
pain behind those eyes.
My mind’s eye entered the scene in that
frame and led me to recall a memory from my motherhood. In it, I was
big with baby number three. In the last days of pregnancy, I was
attempting to sooth my aching body with a warm bath. Then, in bounded
my two young sons. They were full of energy and chatter as they moved
around the perimeter of the tub and peppered me with questions. My
privacy and physical discomfort were of no consequence to their
I remembered the tear that rolled down
my face as I tried, in vain, to get my sons to understand that I was
hurting and in need of some space. But, they were simply little
children who saw me as their ever-present mama, the one who kissed
away boo-boos and stood always at the ready to hear their stories and
meet their needs. They lacked understanding of the physical
sacrifices that child-bearing demands. And I was too familiar to be
seen by them as someone other than their strong, steadfast mother.
Veil of Mercy
Laying my memory over the image sitting on my bathroom vanity, I considered the parallels. Like my little boys, the pictured child saw Our Lord through his individual, human lens of experiences. The fair-faced child saw through his familiar understanding of Jesus. He saw a loving Teacher, a faithful Friend, a steadfast Guide.
For Jesus’s part, the intensity of His Passion was obscured. Out of mercy, Christ met the child’s gaze with tenderness and compassion. The Lord knew that the child was not ready to see the full measure of suffering his salvation had cost.
Reconsidering that parable of gradual
healing, perhaps the blind man was not ready to see old things with
new eyes immediately. Perhaps, his pupils needed time to adjust to
the light, like our vision when we step outside of our dim houses on
a bright sunny day.
Being Blind to Reality
Our familiarity with things, people and situations can make us blind to reality. Rather than look through wide, clear lenses, we more often see through the clouded tunnel of old experiences and expectations.
With so much stimuli competing for our attention, it is reasonable that we filter the world around us. But, like the child in the picture and my own little ones, we tend to see what we want to see and ignore what does not correspond with our perspectives.
Today, as I stand on the border of Holy
Week, while living through a pandemic, I believe that Jesus is
healing our blindness in just the same way that He healed this
sightless believer so long ago. Like the blind man, most of us are
not ready to see old things with new eyes immediately. We’ve become
too accustomed to the darkness of sin, too attached to our
self-reliance, too complacent in our worship, too proud of our human
Maturing in Holiness
The price paid for our salvation on Calvary was horrifying and difficult. It was sacrificial. Yet, like the impish child in the picture on my vanity, we focus on Jesus’s tenderness and mercy only. And for His part, because He is merciful, Jesus allows us to come to a gradual maturity of faith.
However, our current culture no longer esteems maturity, in faith or in any area of life. The idols of comfort, entertainment and instant gratification are so enticing and pervasive that we no longer see anything higher than the purgative way (if we even see that!)
And while child-like dependence on God is the goal, immature holiness is not. Christ did not give His life so that we might remain in a perpetual state of blind immaturity. He gave His life so that we might have new life, a life fully healed and matured.
New Eyes to See
As we make ready to journey through a Holy Week like no other before, Christ is opening our eyes little by little. He is removing our idols one by one. He is stripping away the familiar in our lives, so we might begin to see the old blessings of worship, family, and holiness with new eyes of deep, abiding faith.
For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see lightPsalm 36:10