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Speaking to the Soul: Healing the Disability

Speaking to the Soul: Healing the Disability

by Laurie Gudim

John 9:1-17

When I read the story of the blind man healed by Jesus’ saliva and mud this week, what stood out for me was a passage before the actual healing took place.  Jesus’ disciples have asked him who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should have been born blind.  And Jesus says it is not about that.

That’s what I usually remember about this exchange.  But Jesus goes on to say something else, something a little harder for my 21st Century, First World conditioned brain to grasp.  He says that the man “was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”  And he goes on to say, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Imagine this.  Imagine that the reason that you have come into the world in the shape you are in is so that your “disability”, whatever it is, can be healed by Jesus.  You have not done something or failed to do something.  Your parents or grandparents have not sinned in any way.  You have no agency in this situation whatsoever.  Instead, you are just born in such a place and time that eventually you will have an encounter with a man who calls himself the Light of the World.  In other words, it’s all about Jesus.  Or, rather, it is about you, but not about your decisions and doings, your gifts to others, your righteousness or your competence, how good you are or how bad, how many kudos you get. You are merely that unique person who was created to be at the right place at the right time, to run into Jesus and be healed.  And that’s pretty much the sum of it.

What if I am the object rather than the subject of my story?  What if I’m here not to act but to be acted upon by Jesus?  What if the most important thing in my life is not what I make of it but what is made of me by God?  How does my encounter with Jesus let me see?

Agency plays a key role in my particular blindness.  As a First World Christian I’m used to thinking that I can shape my life.  I believe my status is the result of my choices – and if I don’t like it, I can change it.  I can get a different car or a better job.  I can move to a healthier community or get more of an education so that more opportunities open themselves up for me.  I feel like I have control over pretty much everything.

So when bad things happen to me I tend to blame myself.  If I get sick it’s because I haven’t exercised or eaten right.  If I lose my job and fall into poverty it’s because I didn’t behave in a manner that allowed me to succeed.  If I lose someone close to me, it’s because they or I did something wrong.  Ironically, this is a modern way of doing exactly what Jesus’ disciples were doing when they blamed the blind man for his disability.

I do not know what true sight would be like.  So far I’ve only had brief flashes.  I can tell that, if seeing the world that way, my well being is the result of myriads of accidents and circumstances that are completely out of my control.  I live in a vast web, half of which is not even in the created world.  And central to every node, every tug, and every new string is the Christ.  But that’s about all I know.

Bottom line, though, if my true purpose is to the the object rather than the subject of my story, I don’t have to be in charge.  What I ought to be doing instead is praying.  Praying both connects me to the living, breathing God and helps me let go of the illusion of being the one pulling the strings.  It reminds me that Christ happens to me as Christ will, not as I make possible, and that that’s what’s most important.



Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO.  You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.


Image: By 6th century anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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Laurie Gudim

One of the things I like most about Julian — the thing, in fact, that causes me to identify with her — is her willingness to demand answers of Christ. She would keep insisting, “show me.” And the responses she got rang true in a deep and abiding way that, centuries later, still inform us.

As Phyllis Tickle says, we are moving to a time spiritually when we look for authority not just in scripture, in the way that Reformation era Christians did, but also in our own (prayerful) relationship with God. In this transformation the Holy Spirit becomes more central as we learn that God is always making something new. I think of the UCC advertisement with the comma. “God is still speaking.”

As we learn the ropes of this new way of being God’s people, Julian is an able guide. She spent her life unpacking God’s revelation to her. She was also, as you mention, Ann, an exceptional spiritual director who guided many prominent people of her generation.

Laurie Gudim

P. S. Come to my website,, for an icon of Julian

Ann Fontaine

Julian, while she lived apart, met with all who came to her. She experienced much of life before and after her move into the anchorage. She was 30 when she made that decision – and lived through the time of plague. The average life expectancy was 31 years – though if survived childhood was 45.

Leslie Marshall

Julian of Norwich’s answer to the problem of sin was to live the life of a recluse. (Not at all what Jesus & his disciples modeled.)

I don’t think that her 16 revelations [that kept her secluded in a pietism & religious bondage] were from God.

Her revelations; ‘all shall be well’, ‘all in God’, ‘true self is sinless’, ‘our true Mother Jesus’, ‘spark of the divine’ — directly contradict what God/Jesus say about sin & sinners.

Susan Moritz

Of sin, Julian of Norwich says, “First the fall, and then the recovery from the fall, and both are the mercy of God.”

Her great affirmation expresses the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments: “I then saw with complete certainty that God, before creating us, loved us, and His love never lessened and never will. In this love he accomplished all his works, and in this love he oriented all things to our good and in this love our life is eternal.”

So she can truly say “And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.”

Rod Gillis

“It is not inappropriate to open a series on Western spirituality with the works of Julian of Norwich. She wrote about the central problems of the spiritual life, particularly those related to the encounter between the soul and God. Her writings are now considered to have universal and permanent value. As a woman, she represents the feminine teacher and feminine insight that are less rare in the Western Christian tradition than many of our contemporaries might think”

–Preface to, Showings:The classics of Western Spirituality. (A Library of great Spiritual Masters)

“As Julian tells us, many things are opposed to God, but God is not opposed to anything”

–Gregory Fruehwith, Order of Julian of Norwich

Leslie Marshall

Lots to think about. It gets even more complicated when the Pharisees investigate the healing of the blind man, trying to convict Jesus of working on the Sabbath, and trying to convict the blind man of following a heretic.

[I think we are all born ‘disabled’ by sin. We can accept His spiritual healing or we can say ‘no thanks’.] When Jesus said, ‘Neither this man, nor his parents sinned’..(I think he means sin was not the exact cause of his particular malady –not that he had never sinned.)

Jesus had the last word with the Pharisees. They asked him (sarcastically), ‘What, are we blind too?’. Jesus, knowing their hearts, says, ‘since you claim that you can see, that tells me your guilt remains.’

“For judgement, I have come into the world, so that the blind will see, and those who see will become blind.” JN9:41

Laurie Gudim

I think this story is told in such detail because it illustrates the traps we all get into when we think in our linear, limited fashion. In John’s Gospel Christ is the light of the world, shining in the darkness. Metanoia — repentance — is all about seeing in a new way, developing a consciousness that goes beyond the limited mind that we have now. (Marcus Borg)

I like Julian of Norwich in her understanding of sin. For her it’s tripping and falling into a ditch on the way into the world to retrieve something for the Master. There’s no original badness associated with being human. Quite the opposite. We’re all willing and loving servants who are sent out.


Thanks for that insight, Laurie. Being the object rather than the subject makes it easier to bear my afflictions …

Laurie Gudim


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