I Was Blind, But Now I See
Yesterday I was visiting a friend and sharing with her the newfound joy I’ve discovered in feeding and watching the birds in my backyard. Birds of many species—large and small, graceful and clumsy—arrayed in colors of blue, yellow, red, orange, black, brown and white. As if to jump on the “joy-wagon” she told me how blissful she feels when riding her bike to work and observing the flower gardens coming into bloom along the way. We mused about our newfound sense of appreciation for God’s graced-gift of nature.
I said to Sarah, “I’m fifty-five years old. I’ve lived in the same house for the last eighteen years and had no idea how many wonderful birds visited my backyard. It isn’t that I hadn’t noticed them before; it’s simply that I hadn’t really seen them.” In response to my comment, Sarah replied, “It’s not that your seeing new things; it’s that your seeing things differently!”
On my drive home I mused over Sarah’s comment. She is right. I am seeing things differently. It’s as if I’m seeing with a new set of eyes. For some mysterious reason (which can only fall into the category of grace) the veil before my eyes was lifted and I awakened to the fascination, wonder, beauty and humor of these winged creatures. I find peace watching them forage for food (which isn’t hard since my trees are adorned with a variety of birdfeeders)! I experience joy as I observe them prepare for nesting by collecting tiny broken tree branches, maple leaf covers, moss, and cotton pieces I’ve left outside for nest building. And I find humor while watching them in the midst of mating rituals used to attract potential partners for continuing the species. All of this has taken place in front of my eyes for years and I didn’t see it. One could say that I was blind…blind to one of the abundant gifts God gives us through God’s creation.
I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences. It is as if unexpectedly we are roused from a long nights sleep, we rub our eyes and suddenly the spirit awakens us to the beauty that has surrounded us from the very beginning. Nature is one of the most common ways the spirit of God touches and moves us, but it can happen in many different ways—through relationships, the arts, worship, prayer and praise, and by listening to the music of silence, to name just a few. God’s ways of opening our eyes and awakening our hearts to the abundance that surrounds us are as unique as we are distinctive human beings.
As I thought about my newfound ability to see I reflected upon the many gospel stories that talk of the blind receiving new sight. Most often we read these stories in a fairly literal sense—the person suffered the physical malady of blindness. Through a touch or a word or a prayer Jesus restored their sight. What if we also thought about these stories metaphorically? What if we thought of the person’s blindness in a spiritual sense—a spiritual malady that kept them from recognizing the grace and wonder of God present with them, in them and all through creation? What if we thought of ourselves as spiritually blind? The truth is that we all suffer spiritual blindness to one degree or another. Busy lifestyles, past woundedness, a culture that encourages egocentricity and numerous other factors contribute to the veil of darkness that keeps us from seeing the glory of God present right now…right before our eyes.
We cannot make ourselves see, but we can till the soil of our souls in a way that prepares us to see things differently when God graciously offers us the gift of new eyes. One way to prepare our souls is to focus on the bounty that already exists within our lives. Often that bounty is lost in the midst of life’s hardships. At such times it is natural to focus on what we don’t have—health, a meaningful relationship, financial security, or purposeful work, etc. But after we have genuinely grieved our losses, and when we can muster the courage to look outside of our suffering, we can begin to move from a sense of scarcity to a consciousness of abundance. The abundance that I speak of is not excessive wealth, or power or fame. Rather it is the small things in life that we often take for granted—a stranger’s smile, the sun’s warmth, a friend’s phone call, the smell of a fresh mown lawn, the touch of someone we love—that, when recognized, gives us an awareness of the abundance that surrounds us and prepares our souls to receive the gift of new sight when offered.
In conjunction with this idea I invite you to explore some place in life that brings you deep-felt joy. It may be a special relationship, some aspect of nature, a piece of beautiful music, your participation in a sport or artistic endeavor, the quiet peacefulness of prayer or some other experience that awakens a place of blessing within. As you do this exercise, you will be recognizing the abundance already present in your life; you will also be tilling the soil of your soul. Who knows when you too will be blessed with a new set of eyes!