Mr Michaels

haunted

Mr Michaels’ blindness was absolute. Born sighted, it had been 20 years before the cataracts had begun to form from the kiss of sunlight.

It happened so slowly at first, like a fog creeping in on cat’s paws. Every month the dull haze thickened, coalesced just a little more. It was so gradual that he never even realized his sight was being stolen from him until it was gone. It was as if his sight was a stone and the sun was the sea, washing it away to nothingness, no trace of it ever having been there.

It was nothing to Mr Michaels. His sight had gone so gradually that he’d forgotten he’d ever had vision. Just like that sea-stone, all evidence of its existence was erased. Just as slowly and just as insistently, his memory of sight had dissolved as well. He could no longer remember his mother’s face or the color of the sky in early November, could no longer even remember that he had ever known these things.

He didn’t think of his blindness as an absence. He didn’t think of it at all.

All his life he had worked outside. Perhaps it was an undiagnosed case of claustrophobia. Perhaps he was just set in his ways. His first job had been in landscaping, and every one after that had been related. Grounds crew for a municipal park, another one helping harvest apples, it was all the same to him, as long as he was outside.

His father never knew if he’d ever tried for anything more advanced. He never asked, but he’d been tempted to often. He wanted to encourage him to be his best rather than settle, but he remembered his own father doing the same to him and he still resented him for it. Perhaps this was his best? Perhaps he led a simple life because he was simple? Best not to dig too deeply.

Mr Michael’s hands became his eyes, showing him the size of the bulb or seed that he held. He then knew how far down to dig to plant it. His hands told him where the weeds were to pluck, told him what apples were ready to harvest and which ones were best left for the birds. His feet told him how far the flower bed was from the orchard, how far from the stables. His nose told him whether the horses were sick or scared. His ears told him whether a storm was coming, and whether it was going to be strong enough to warrant bringing the animals in early.

Watching him work, you’d never know he was blind. By tacit agreement, all the other workers on the farm kept everything where it had always been. That one incident with the misplaced hay bale had been enough to convince them.

It was only when you looked directly into his eyes that you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was blind. Very few people were brave enough to do this more than once.  Looking into his milky eyes was like looking into a pair of mirrors set just opposite each other.  All you could see was yourself, all of yourself, unto eternity, ever diminishing into meaninglessness.  It was overwhelming and humbling.  You could see all of your strengths and all of your faults, unvarnished, untampered by the usual lies you told yourself.  This alone was unsettling, but the additional feature of his gaze was to leave you with an overwhelming sense of your utter insignificance.

Mr Michaels was completely unaware of this.  He wasn’t bothered in the slightest that people tended to leave him alone.  It meant he had time for his own amusements.  That suited him just fine.

Healing work

Sometimes you have to work to be healed. Sometimes it isn’t instant. Let us look at two stories – one from the Hebrew Bible, and one from the Gospels.

In John 9:1-7 we read about a man who was blind from birth. Jesus doesn’t just touch him or ask him if he believes that Jesus can heal him, like with other healings.

— As He was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples questioned Him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him. 4 We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 After He said these things He spit on the ground, made some mud from the saliva, and spread the mud on his eyes. 7 “Go,” He told him, “wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So he left, washed, and came back seeing.

Jesus smeared mud made from nearby dirt and his own spit on the man’s eyes, and then the man has to go away to a specific pool to wash. One must assume that he had to have help to get to that pool because he was still blind at this point. He doesn’t question what he has to do, he just does it.

Then in the Hebrew Bible, we have this story. This is in 2 Kings 5:1-14

Naaman, commander of the army for the king of Aram, was a great man in his master’s sight and highly regarded because through him, the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man was a brave warrior, but he had a skin disease. 2 Aram had gone on raids and brought back from the land of Israel a young girl who served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would go to the prophet who is in Samaria, he would cure him of his skin disease.” 4 So Naaman went and told his master what the girl from the land of Israel had said.5 Therefore, the king of Aram said, “Go and I will send a letter with you to the king of Israel.” So he went and took with him 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and 10 changes of clothes. 6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, and it read: When this letter comes to you, note that I have sent you my servant Naaman for you to cure him of his skin disease. 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and asked, “Am I God, killing and giving life that this man expects me to cure a man of his skin disease? Think it over and you will see that he is only picking a fight with me.” 8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel tore his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Have him come to me, and he will know there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Then Elisha sent him a messenger, who said, “Go wash seven times in the Jordan and your flesh will be restored and you will be clean.” 11 But Naaman got angry and left, saying, “I was telling myself: He will surely come out, stand and call on the name of Yahweh his God, and will wave his hand over the spot and cure the skin disease. 12 Aren’t Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and left in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more should you do it when he tells you, ‘Wash and be clean’?” 14 So Naaman went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, according to the command of the man of God. Then his skin was restored and became like the skin of a small boy, and he was clean.

Naaman was indignant that he wasn’t going to be healed the way he expected. He wanted a show. He thought he knew more about how to be a prophet of God than Elisha did!

How many times do we think we know how God is going to work? How many times do we pass over the true healing that only God can provide because it seems too simple, too easy?

We want to be healed of our addictions, but we aren’t willing to do the work involved in quitting. We want to be free of unhealthy relationships, but we aren’t willing to leave. We want so much, and God offers the way out freely, and we just don’t take it because it seems like it should be either easier or harder. But when God shows us the way out, we have to get up and walk out the door, and then keep walking. God does part of the work, and we have to do the rest.

God’s ways aren’t our ways, and we always forget that. This is why it is so helpful to have the Scriptures to tell us what to expect. They are our road map for finding God here in the wilderness of our lives.

(All translations are HCSB)

The blind man’s sight and the blindness of the Pharisees

Jesus went and found the man after they had thrown him out. He said “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

The man asked “Who is that, Sir, so I can believe in him?”

Jesus answered, “You have seen him. Actually, he’s talking to you right now.”

“Lord, I believe!” he said, and he began to worship Jesus.

Jesus said “I have been sent as a sign of God’s judgment, so that those who are blind will see and that those who are sure of their sight will become blind.”

Some Pharisees who were standing nearby overheard this and asked “Are you saying that we are blind?”

“If you were blind,” Jesus replied, “you would be free of any guilt that would cause your sin. But because you say that you can see, you are fully accountable for your sins.”

JN 9:35-41

The healed man’s testimony

The man whose sight had been restored was brought to the Pharisees. Jesus had made the mud paste and healed him on the Sabbath. The Pharisees asked the man again how his sight had been restored. The man told them that Jesus had put mud on his eyes, he washed, and then he could see.

Some of the Pharisees exclaimed “He can’t be from God! He breaks the Sabbath!” Others said “But how could a sinful man perform such miracles?” They were divided about this.

They asked the formerly blind man “What do you think about him, since he healed you of your blindness?”

The man replied “He’s a prophet.”

The Jewish authorities didn’t believe that this man had really been cured of his blindness, so they called for the man’s parents. Then they asked them “Is this your son, the one you claim was blind from birth? How is it that he can see now?”

“We assure you that this is our son, and that he has always been blind,” the man’s parents said, “but we don’t know who restored his sight or how it happened. He’s an adult. Ask him.” They said this because they were afraid of the authorities. The leaders had already proclaimed that anyone who said Jesus was the Messiah wouldn’t be allowed to go to the synagogue.

The leaders summoned the man again and asked him to solemnly swear the truth by saying to him “Give glory to God.” Then they said “We know that Jesus is a sinner!”

The man answered “I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do know that I was blind but now I can see!”

“Tell us exactly what he did and how he did it” they demanded.

“I’ve already told you and you didn’t believe me. Why should I tell you again?” he replied. “Do you want to become his disciples?”

They started to make fun of him and said “You’re his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. God definitely spoke to Moses, but this man is a mystery to us.”

“Isn’t that interesting?” he retorted. “He healed my blindness, but you aren’t sure about him. God doesn’t act for sinners – only those who fear God and do his will. In the history of the entire world, there has never ever been anyone who could heal the blindness of a person born that way. This man has to be from God, otherwise he couldn’t do this.”

“You were born full of sin, and you’re trying to teach us?” they shouted. Then they threw him out.

JN 9:13-34

Healing many people

Jesus then traveled alongside the Sea of Galilee. He climbed up a mountain and sat down. Large crowds came to him there, bringing to him people who were lame, blind, deformed, mute, or had other maladies. He healed everyone who was brought to him.

The crowd was amazed when they saw those who were mute began to speak, those who were lame able to walk, and those who were blind able to see. Even people who were deformed were made whole. Everyone in the crowd gave glory to the God of Israel.

MT 15:29-31

A man who was deaf and had a speech impediment was brought there by a person who begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man and heal him.

Jesus led him away from the crowds so he could heal him privately. He put his fingers in the man’s ears, spat, and then touched the man’s tongue. He then looked up to heaven, sighed deeply, and said in Aramaic “Ephphatha!” which means “Be opened!” The man was instantly freed from his afflictions and was able to see and speak perfectly.

He ordered the crowd to not tell anyone about what had happened, but the more he ordered them, the more they spread the news. They were amazed and told everyone “He does everything well! He even makes deaf people hear and cures people of being unable to speak!”

MK 7:31-37

A blind man healed.

A large crowd was following Jesus and his disciples when they were near Jericho. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus) was sitting by the road. When he asked what was going on, a person told him “Jesus the Nazarene is walking by.”

He began to cry out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” People in the front of the crowd told him to keep quiet, but he began to cry out even more, saying “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”

Jesus stopped and asked that the blind man be brought to him. They called to the blind man and said “Cheer up! Come on, he’s calling for you!” Immediately he flung off his cloak, jumped up and went to Jesus.

Jesus asked him “What do you want me to do for you?”

Bartimaeus said, “Teacher I want to see!”

Moved with compassion, Jesus said “Open your eyes. Your faith has healed you.”

He was immediately able to see and he began to follow him on the road, giving glory to God. Everyone who saw this happen began to praise God.

MT 20:29-34, MK 10:46-52, LK 18:35-43

Restoring sight to two blind men

Two blind men followed Jesus as he was leaving Jairus’ home. They shouted at him – “Have mercy on us, Son of King David!” They followed him into the house where he was staying. Jesus asked them “Do you believe that I can heal your blindness?” They answered “Yes, Lord.” Touching their eyes, he said “Because of your faith it will happen.” Immediately they could see. Jesus gave them strict instructions to not tell, but instead they told everyone they met about how he had healed them.

MT 9:27-31

Glasses

I needed glasses at an early age, but I didn’t know it. Nobody knew it. I’d learned to adapt to my handicap. Imagine how much fuller my life would have been if people could have seen the signs and known to get me help.

In the meantime, I sat at the front of the class so I could see the board, and I learned to recognize people by how they walked, rather than how their face looked.

I wonder how many other things I’m missing out on. I wonder what else I am faking at and I don’t even know it. I wonder how many of us are like that, adapting, creating work-arounds, when there is a simple way through it. We think that our disability is normal, because we don’t know it is a disability, or we think that we just have to suffer with it because nobody has told us any differently. We either think we are normal and we aren’t, or we think we are unusual, and we aren’t.

I’m one of those people that needs someone to point out the obvious sometimes. Sometimes, something is so simple I don’t think of it. My head is in the clouds. I can see big things, but little things escape me.

Wonder if there are glasses for that? Perhaps I’m farsighted in life, where I’m nearsighted otherwise.

If glasses won’t help, then people can give you a cane, or make signs bigger, or you can use a guide dog.

But imagine, if you were born blind, and you didn’t know that there was such a thing as “sight”.

Imagine how the world was for Helen Keller when her teacher was finally able to unlock her mind, to let her know about words. She started to become a human being that day.

I’m constantly looking for ways that I’m blind, that I’m missing out. I share them here, with the hope that others will get something from it. Perhaps they will say “Ah! So that is what it is that I’m missing!” and their eyes will open too.