by Laurie Gudim
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