I even like to think that I’m related to one of those blessed people whose sight was restored — the guy in Mark 10:46 identified as “blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.” I figure he was one of my ancestors who just couldn’t spell our rare and odd name too well.
What did not become 20-20 clear to me until the week I spent teaching a Ghost Ranch writing class this past summer was that we, too, are asked to heal people of their blindness. Not their physical blindness, though it would be wonderful, of course, if we were able to do that. Rather, we are asked to heal them of the spiritual blindness that keeps them from seeing that the world is out of sorts with its creator, that people are wounded and in need of ministry, that we live in a broken world with broken people who are oppressed by broken political, economic, social, and cultural structures.
I suppose it’s easy for me to say this because I’m just near-sighted and not blind, but it seems to me that healing this second kind of blindness is more important than restoring someone’s physical sight.
To heal spiritual blindness, we must speak with our prophetic voices — the voices we use not to predict the future but, rather, to help fix that future by calling people to repair the wounded world.
This means we must be theologically literate so we can more readily discern God’s hopes and dreams and plans for the world. We must know what wholeness looks like so we can see more clearly what is ruptured, what is unhealthy, what is operating in intentional opposition to the heart of God. So we must find ourselves asking questions like these: Is it God’s desire that people live in brutal poverty in a stunningly rich society? Can it be God’s wish that we grow corn to fuel our cars instead of using it to feed people who are fiercely hungry? What does Scripture tell us about our duties to care for the creation, to teach our children well, to avoid ridiculous debt, to love people and not to slaughter them for ideological reasons?
Once we grasp the scriptural message that Christ brings the memory of wholeness into our brokenness, we, too, can begin to find ways to open people’s eyes to the jarring disconnect between the Biblical vision of a whole and healthy creation and the harsh and destructive realities all around us. In my Ghost Ranch class, I expected people to focus on some social justice issue and write compellingly about how to fix the problem.
Instead, they surprised me by writing personal stories of woundedness, stories that in more indirect ways pointed to the world’s radically flawed systems that create — or at least fail to salve — such wounds.
One man broke our hearts with his writing about the painful loneliness he has experienced since the death of his wife less than a year ago. His was an authentic and credible voice that quietly demanded that our communities of faith surround the bereaved with love in ways that are more effective than preparing a casserole the week of the funeral.
Similarly, a pastor in the class wrote of her distressing experience in a church full of people who seemed unable to imagine the worth of any political, social, or cultural views other than their own. They were blind to their need for humility, without which nothing in the world will ever get fixed.
Her prophetic voice was seeking to heal all of us of that same kind of blindness. Jesus told us that we, too, could work miracles. And I now think he meant, among other things, healing spiritual blindness.
BILL TAMMEUS is an elder at Second Church in Kansas City, Mo., and former Faith columnist for The Kansas City Star. Visit his “Faith Matters” blog at http://billtammeus.typepad.com. E-mail him at [email protected].