The Man Born Blind

The Gospel reading this Sunday is the story in John 9 about the man born blind.  About a year ago, when my blog was still very new, one of my first posts was a reflection on this Gospel story.  I was thinking about this story tonight and decided to go back and look at my words from a year ago.  this is what I wrote:

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Bible story of the man born blind in John, chapter 9. I am intrigued by the opening passage.

As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”

As a person with a disability looming at my door, I often question what I have done to bring this about.  In both a physical sense and a spiritual sense, I wonder if I deserve to have low vision.  I examine my life with questions reaching from “Have I not eaten enough leafy green vegetables?” to “Am I stressing my arteries by carrying this extra weight?” to “Is God trying to teach me something?” to “What sin have I committed to deserve this?”  Everything I have learned about the divine mystery has taught me that God is loving and generous, but my self-blaming mind sometimes wonders if this low vision is some kind of punishment.  Like the disciples, I attribute this oncoming blindness to sin, my own sin.

To ease my troubled conscience, Jesus’ answer to the disciples reassures that blindness is not due to sin.  Jesus deepens the reassurance by giving a purpose to the blindness of the man – so that the works of God might be made visible through him.  What a glorious purpose.  This man’s disability is going to be used for the glory of God.  When I translate this to my own life, my spirit is awakened.  My low vision is not because of my sin or because I deserve it.  Going even deeper, I understand that my low vision could have the power to make the works of God visible.  This problem, this inconvenience, this disability is really grace in disguise.  I believe that God can use me, through this journey into low vision, to reveal something of the divine glory to the world.

When I was a teenager, I thought that this revelation of glory could only come about by restoring my sight.  Like the restoration of sight to the man born blind, my renewed sight would be the miracle that would show God’s glory.  Now I understand that the miracle can be lived out in a different way.  There are many paths through which God can use my low vision to reveal glory.  For now, I believe that one path that is essential for me to follow is to try to look at the world with loving eyes, with eyes that see beauty.  If I can learn to do this, I believe that God can use me – the works of God may be made visible through me.  Not in spite of my low vision but because of it.  This is just amazing to me and I pray and yearn for it to become reality.

————————-

Back to present day and I am amazed when I read my resolve to be positive and to look for beauty in the world.  That decision has really impacted my life over the last year.  Having a positive attitude has become more easy for me.  When I am feeling down or when circumstances seem less than fortunate, I look for blessings and believe that I will eventually find them.  I am thrilled again by the words of the gospel

it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.

I have been so blessed over the course of the past year to have people tell me that my writing and my positive attitude has helped them.  I feel happy that I have been able to help people come to terms with their own vision loss by telling my story.  I hope that I am helping people find some peace and beauty in their own journeys. I no longer question why I am on this low vision journey.  I believe that I am making this journey so that the works of God might be made visible.  If I can keep looking for beauty and finding grace, I believe that this dream will be accomplished.

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9 thoughts on “The Man Born Blind

  1. Belinda, I tried to explain why I don’t want to be the token blind person to this woman. I was polite yet specific in my explanation. She claims she understood, but her comments and tone of voice clearly indicate that she does not understand and still thinks of me as the token blind person.

    I have mixed feelings about speaking at groups. One time I spoke at a group in my hometown, and it was an awful experience. It had nothing to do with me as a person. My mother was at the meeting as she was a member of the group. She told me later that everyone, with a few exceptions, were disrespectful to me by continuing to talk to each other as I was trying to speak or show a video. Mom was quite displeased with the members of the group. I would hope other groups wouldn’t be that disrespectful to the speaker.

    • Alexis, I’m sure you did try to explain. Sometimes people just can’t hear or won’t hear or can’t understand. I understand if you don’t like speaking in front of groups because you had a bad experience. I do think you have a lot to offer, though, so I hope you find a way to share your story!

  2. The short version of the story is that the woman who invited me to speak at the group is very involved. She saw me as a project or novelty. Since I have a Seeing Eye dog, I’m different, and the woman latched onto the difference.

    When she asked me to speak at her group, I asked what the grou’s mission was. She said the mission is to provide education to impoverished women or single parents. Nothing at all related to disability. I questioned her further about this in hopes of getting her to see my reason why I was hesitant to accept the invitation. She did not, more likely could not. No matter how much explanation was provided, she thought I was wrong for declining.

    I e-mailed her a very polite response declining the speaking engagement. She wrote back stating she did not understand why I was declining. I had spoken with a trusted friend from church and described my feelings about the sitaution. Katy understood where I was coming from. It was a good thing I spoke to her about this because I found out from her that the other woman had contacted Katy asking her if she knew why I was declining the speaking invite. Never mind that my reasons were laid out in the e-mail to the woman. Katy gave her an answer that I could tell was forced. I knew she didn’t want to get involved in this mess, and I can completely understanding where she’s coming from in that respect.

    The part that annoyed me the most about the entire situation was moments after I sent the e-mail declining her invitation, she wrote back stating that she had found another person from ABVI to speak. This confirmed my suspicion that all she wanted was a token blind person. When I confronted her about this, she said that wasn’t true at all. She then went on to say how at different points, I had said something to educate her when she made a blunder. She wanted me to educate her community group.

    I would gladly educate groups, but the way she went about it was all wrong and made me feel like the token blind person. I felt like I would be put on display and admired for even getting out of bed in the morning and walking around my home.

    I’m very sure this would have happened because one of the people in the group had supposedly seen me speak somewhere else. She told the church member how amazed she was that I could ress myself and how my clothing waas professional. That was very offensive to me. Offensive in that the woman made it a point to tell me this and then refused to give me any further information as to where the other woman had heard me speak. I felt as though it was some big secret that church lady wanted to cover up. I feel it only my right to know where others had heard me speak.

    That’s the very very long version of what happened.

    • Yes, I can understand why you would not want to speak at this group meeting. The women in this community group face much different challenges than what you face. So, you made a wise decision to decline speaking to them. Also, this woman should have just accepted that it is your right to decline being a speaker at a function you do not feel comfortable speaking at.

    • Thanks for telling your story, Alexis. I also get so annoyed when I think I am being treated like the “token” person representing low vision (or any kind of token). I do find that I sometimes jump to conclusions about people’s motives, though, so I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes a little explanation goes a long way and sometimes I find that I misunderstood their intentions. I understand why you didn’t want to speak to this group, but I do believe you have a lot to teach the world, so please be open to telling your stories to groups in the future. You are amazing!

  3. The Gospel reading at my church for this Sunday is the same as what you described in this post. I see where you’re coming from in this post; however, certain members of my church will not see past the part about the man being healed. They will rush up to me after service and ask why I don’t want to be healed.

    In order to prevent such a barrage of questions, I e-mialed my pastor earlier in the week and explained my feelings about the gospel. I said that I’m perfectly fine being visually impaired. If he chooses to use any of this in his sermon, more power to him. In fact, I invited him to use any or all of it because it would be one way to prevent people from swarming around me after the service asking why I didn’t want to be healed, etc.

    Certain church members do not have understanding or respect for individuals with disabilities. I could write much more about this issue but will not take ut comment space on your blog. Suffice to say that I was asked to speak at someone’s community group, a group that has nothing to do with disability or education. I politely declined the invitation; however, the person has no clue why I declined. It’s a long story so if you ever want to hear it, I’d be glad to share.

    • I also have heard this reading in church. I have had people in my life tell me that I have not been seeing the right doctors or just have not found the right pair of glasses. It is so infuriating. This is simply because it is placing blame on me for something I did not ask for or want. I did not wish to become legally blind it just happened to me. I would welcome restored sight and have seen all the right doctors and none can restoree my sight.

      I do agree that there are some people that just cannot accept or see past this issue. I would like to hear your story about why you declined the speaking engagement .

      I try to stay positive also. But sometimes it is hard. People do treat me differently since I became legally blind.

      I don’t mean to sound entirely ynical. I do what I can with what I have. But, I don’t reach out to people as much as I once did. I have given up there.

      • Thank you for the comment, Teresa. For me, it is so important to stay positive and to push myself to be outgoing and not isolate myself. I don’t want to limit myself in any way and find that keeping the doors of conversation open has helped me to show people that my life is full of joy despite and even because of my low vision.

    • Alexis, I am very intrigued by this Gospel and have actually written a couple of posts about it. I know it is difficult when people don’t understand that my prayer is not that my eyesight be healed. Instead, I pray that I become the best person I can be. People usually assume that my “disability” is always foremost in my mind. I have found that this scripture can really be a great conversation starter. I pray that you have a wonderful church service tomorrow and that you can find a way to educate your fellow parishioners so that they see what a complete and wonderful person you are. God bless.

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