By B.J. Funk
My daddy often quoted Longfellow’s phrase, “Into each life some rain must fall. Some days must be dark and dreary.”
Darkness is a scary thing. When we were small, we thought that boogie bears and goblins inhabited the dark. When we grew up, we knew for sure that they did. Smoke colored clouds roll out thunder into our lives, showing no favoritism. Rich or poor, sinner or saint, no one is excluded. Perhaps that is why I love the story of Fanny Crosby. Her literal blindness was her entrance into God’s work for her and became the catalyst for her triumphant life of writing over 8,000 hymns. She lived inside of Blessed Assurance; Jesus is Mine long before she wrote about that assurance. Our spiritual blindness can also become the catalyst for bringing victorious life to you and me.
At the age of eight, Fanny wrote these verses about her condition: Oh what a happy soul I am, although I cannot see; I am resolved that in this world, contented I will be.” Later Fanny, a life-long Methodist, remarked “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow, I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.”
She might have been blind, but Fanny Crosby could see! For Fanny, darkness was the doorway into life.
We don’t have to go to a Blind Academy or stop under a bridge of homeless heroin addicts to find blind eyes. There will be a pair or two on your same pew this Sunday. Spiritual blindness at church is perhaps the hardest blindness to cure. These people are your brothers and sisters in Christ. However, they leave the church the same way they came in. Scales block an entrance to the truth. The message of hope cannot penetrate. They are as blind as the blind heroin addicts. The difference is that the addict recognizes his blindness and either chooses to stay or tries to get out. The pew-sitter might never recognize his.
Sometimes Jesus did things that caused others to gasp. He broke into their preconceived ideas with unconventional methods. On two occasions when Jesus restored sight to the blind, he used an unsanitary method: spit. In both cases, sight was given to men who had not been able to see. In Mark 8:22, Jesus spit on a blind man’s eyes and then touched him. In John 9:6, Jesus spit on the ground and made a mudpack to place on the other blind man’s eyes. Do you hear the gasp of the crowd as they watched Jesus pucker up his mouth and let out two rounds of human spit straight into a blind man’s eyes. Did that man gasp? Did he let out any x-rated words as the wet saliva drenched his eyes and rolled down his cheeks? When others watched Jesus stoop down and pick up two wads of mud, plastering them on the other man’s eyes, can you hear shouts of “Oh no!” in the crowd? Wonder what it felt like to be hit with a wet, cold thickness. If I had been Jesus, I would have chosen the easier route: just touch the men and heal them. Why the show? Was there anything magical about spit and mud?
I don’t think so. In everything our Lord did, he moved with the determined purpose of teaching us about kingdom living. Perhaps the disgusting elements of spit and mud were meant to be symbols of what we face before we receive our spiritual eyesight: Life’s problems spit at us and disappointments throw mud in our eyes. Once we have had enough negatives of life, enough darkness, we call out to the Healer for mercy. Only His touch can help us sling off earth’s foul pull and open our eyes to the joy of new life with Jesus. Spiritually blind eyes see best after they’ve been crushed under layers of darkness.
2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us plainly where this darkness comes from. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” Satan so cleverly disguises his work that believers forget there even is a god of this age. Darkness then becomes a way of life, with one layer of blindness piling in on another until a thick, dark coat completely engulfs the unbeliever. There is not a human on earth who can pull back the darkness. It takes an act of supernatural mercy.
Do you have children or grandchilden walking in spiritual darkness? Tell them the story of how Fanny used her blindness to find light. Then, pray that God will pile their eyes full to the brim with the mud and spit of life. It’s a prerequisite to their sight. Lord, have mercy.
B.J. Funk (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Fitzgerald, Georgia. She is the author of The Dance of Life: Invitation to a Father Daughter Dance, a regular contributor to the South Georgia Advocate, and a frequent speaker at women’s retreats.