A couple of postings ago I talked about my husband's sermon on Jesus' healing of the blind man. One response to that passage of scripture came from a dear friend of mine named Yin. Yin has a progressive eye disease that took her sight gradually over a period of years to the point where, for the past few years, she has been blind. I like Yin's theological take on that biblical story. I like it because she herself is experiencing blindness that is not going to go away apart from a miraculous healing from God, so she knows the "other side" of life, so different from those people who are healed in this way. Yin has undergone many sessions of healing prayer, she has a strong faith in God that is based in the reality of life on earth. She gave me permission to print her response here, a response from someone who, despite many years of prayer for her, has never experienced the type of surprise restoration of sight the blind man experienced in the story. Yin is authentic. Yin is an amazing woman of faith. I haven't changed anything in her email below, just copied it as it came to me.
I do like the story of the blind ‘son’ being an instrument of God’s glorification in John 9 .
While the preoccupation of the Pharisees and the general public was on sin and blame, Jesus wanted to focus on God’s glorification and knowing him.
But I feel the missing piece is, what if the blind man wasn’t healed? If he weren’t healed, would God still have been glorified? What good news is there for the majority of us who are not changed for the better? What positive image is there for those who continue in their impaired state?
If you care to hear my thoughts, read on. Apologies for the ramblings.
The tendency today is still seeing unpleasant conditions as flaws, problems, undesirable and unfortunate. And though we might be more polite today and not ask about the cause of the flaw, or assign blame too quickly, we still want to ‘heal’, restore, rectify, correct and make better. We can say compassionately that it’s OK to come as you are, but we’d better see you off in a better condition than the one with which you came.
Stories of healing reinforces this idea that one needs to get better, if not completely healed. Our faith in medical advances also convinces us that there is a cure, a solution to every problem. Spiritually speaking, we say God can and will heal our hearts, restore our souls and transform our lives inside out. After all, Jesus is the answer to every problem. What good is forgiveness and salvation if we can’t then move on to a better spiritual or physical life?
This theology of infirmity to wholeness leaves us who do not experience that wonderful healing, freedom and victory, feeling like bigger losers in God’s kingdom. The promise or examples of transformations to health and wealth, healing and happiness, even spiritual fulfillment and giftings, create a bigger hole, a deeper grievance among us ‘have-nots’.
The Gospel stories with their ‘good endings’ naturally lead us to end our teaching on ‘God will heal, transform, make good or even better’. But what does that do to us who may not see any change for the better?
Who doesn’t love good endings, solutions to persisting problems, answers to prayers. But I’ve been let down too many times and those good endings don’t do much for me anymore.
I find more comfort in David’s anguish, encouragement in Jeremiah’s weepings, strength in Job’s ‘I know my redeemer lives’ in the midst of loss, and good theology in Paul’s treasure in jars of clay.
Yes, we should teach spiritual renewal, transformation. Sanctification, working out of one’s salvation. But there are many parts of our lives we simply cannot change, and God in His wisdom and power does not change. What is there then in the Gospel for those times? What does Jesus say to the many other paralytics by the pool? What has Jesus in store for many other demoniacs who were not freed? And what about the poor that will be with us always? Jesus has not healed all. Jesus has not calmed all storms. He has not dramatically transformed all lives. So how am I to value myself when not being one of the lucky few healed or restored ones?
There are those in the disability movement who say disability is not a flaw, but a diversity. It is not something that needs to be corrected, cured or changed for the better, but a mark of our unique identity, even a mark of pride in who we are. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we Christians could go beyond saying the disabled or impaired a sign of God’s judgement, to go beyond even saying being socially, physically or spiritually inadequate is a means for God to show His mercy and power, to recognize and affirm they too are the wonderful image of God, a mark of His greatness in frailty, His deity in humanity. Jesus has balanced His dramatic miracles with His identifying with the lowly, His teachings on who is truly blessed, on who He has come to call, on the on-going opposition He faces, and on His death, which is His glorification–according to John.
The ultimate hope is in the resurrection, not restoration. Restoration means a return to a former condition, a going back to something I was. And healing too is a mere bringing one’s condition to a state we humans in our temporal condition consider good. Seeing 20/20 would be wonderful, but may not be the greatest thing after all. If I can have the splendor of the sun, the splendor of the moon is nothing to pine for. Even if I can never be whole like the Joneses, I can still look forward to the imperishable swallowing up the perishable, the spiritual body replacing my earthly, mortal one.
This is the theology I have come to embrace. This is the theology that helps me to be whole. I am in Christ, the frail Jesus, the disabled God. And I take hold of the ‘not yet’, rather than constantly grasping for the elusive ‘now’.
Preach it sister Yin. While there are a number of excellent books written about the theology of infirmity, there is nothing like hearing what a person who is living with blindness, or other condition considered to be an infirmity, to really bring it home where we all live. Thank you Yin for sharing your life and your thoughts with us.