Believing is Seeing

david and carysAs Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him…………..39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
John 9:1–41

You really need to go read this entire story. I will ask the congregation to be seated when I read this Sunday, because for some reason discomfort on our feet seems to affect our hearing too.

EYE2In the past several months, I have been learning that my children think in pictures. It’s an amazing kind of intelligence. The more I have learned about their picture-thinking, the more I have learned that the gift is a family legacy. It runs in families, we have learned. I think in pictures. For my children, text can be confusing if not downright confounding. For some reason, I learned quite early in life to translate from one language–text–to another: pictures, and back again. In a way, it’s like being bilingual.

There is evidence that some amazingly brilliant people have thought in pictures: Leonardo daVinci, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and many others. People who think in pictures often see the whole picture in multiple dimensions and perspectives even while missing details. It is quite common to hear people talk about being a “visual thinker” as some kind of disability, as though this explains whatever shortcoming they are describing in themselves. It is not unusal for picture thinkers to be square pegs in round holes when it comes to school. Edison and Einstein were both declared to be impaired and ineducable. Einstein didn’t do rote arithmetic and was known to make errors–and still impossibly come up with the right answer at the end.

When I walk in a room, my mind takes a snapshot. I am the family finder. When something is missing, I pull up that snapshot and often “see” where it is. As long as it isn’t my keys, that is. I get irritable when my family takes this ability for granted and assumes that of course I could find their missing thing if I just thought about it hard enough. Picture thinking people are often told they aren’t trying hard enough. Teachers know we are intelligent, and don’t understand when something is very difficult–like memorizing mathematical tables, historical dates, and the like. How can it be that someone who is so gifted can’t just memorize the times table to 12? Learn to use capitals and punctuation? Spell? Before long, the picture thinker is framed by what others see as deficits. Tragically, the picture thinker becomes blind to his or her own remarkable self as well as blind to the world others keep describing he/she should be living in.

Like the man born blind, this blindness has been ours from birth. The brain is just wired this way. And, just like the man born blind, people are quick to blame our parents. Maybe they didn’t discipline their children well enough, or read to them, or spend enough quality time with them, or care enough or or or…..

eye chartThe clinical word for it is dyslexia. That’s the word that describes the deficit, which means of course, it must be overcome. It must be healed. I’ve described it differently here. I’ve described the gift. An extraordinary gift. I take heart hearing Jesus speak: he was born blind so that God’s works may be revealed in him. Conventionally, we explain that he was born blind so that JEsus could come along and heal him of his blindness, and that would certainly seem to be the case. But this word blindness, this dyslexia….maybe the healing is really a healing of vision so that OTHERS can see the good work God is doing that has been invisible to THEM.
The blind man sees that God is at work in the person of JEsus. The seeing ones only see blindness and sin: deficits. Heck, what can a blind man see? BUT believing really is seeing.
I’ve seen it before. Everyone else sees an individual as a loser, incapable, incompetent, worthless. Someone comes along and believes in what the individual is and can become, and the most remarkable transformation is put into motion. One person who believes is able to SEE what others are blind to, and believing, they bring that vision into reality. Some people would call them teachers. Really really gifted teachers.
Why wouldn’t the blind man want to be cured of his blindness? Wouldn’t everyone? I wonder if he had any regrets about that after they put him out of the synagogue. Did he know what the cure would cost him?
My children don’t need to be cured of thinking in pictures. I think it’s way too late for me. If there were a cure, and it meant that we could no longer think in pictures but would be like everyone else in the grown up linear thinking world….would it be too great a cost to pay?
The most amazing thing is that we in the picture thinking world can learn to be “bilingual.” We have to work with our compensations, and technology gives us a big assist. It’s not perfect, and the process is painful and fraught with failures. Those who insist on finding out who did the wrong and fix us will continue contributing to misery. I’m not so sure those in the grown up linear thinking world can learn to think in pictures “bilingually.” Those who do not see…well, they just do not see and remain blind, even while they insist their two good eyes work perfectly fine.
So what does “cure” look like? Go ask the blind man. eyes3

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About Pastor Betsy Williams

I am a mom. And a wife. And a Friend. And a homeowner. And a dog ...uh....owner? Actually make that two dogs. Two kids. One husband. I'm an ELCA Lutheran pastor of a beautiful downtown church. I am the third senior pastor in a century, so my 10-12 years here may feel like an interim to some of the folks here. Recently I have had no spare time. In my spare time in the future, my imagination inhabits a novel I am writing, The Funeral Preacher. My primary blog is a personal reflection on the Revised Common Lectionary...mostly: "Not All Who Wander are Lost." A few years ago I was on a team of writers who produced a little book for Augsburg Fortress in the Washed and Welcome series called "Living the Promises." It's 101 ideas for helping parents and godparents nurture their children in the faith of their baptism. I am developing another blog, more about worship at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Newark, Ohio and including a summary of the past week's preaching. Otherwise, I imagine myself to be a musician, liturgical artist, cook in a five star restaurant where the patrons keep ordering chicken nuggets, but never a bottle washer. I know how to delegate and share.
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