Monday, March 22nd
During an EFM class at St. John’s years ago, something remarkable happened. As we got underway, a classmate interrupted to talk about his weekend. Annoyed at the disruption, I tuned him out. At one point during his long narration the lights appeared suddenly to dim, except for the light over me which seemed to brighten, illuminating only me. Like I was fainting. Except I wasn’t fainting, and the lights weren’t dimming.
Laura and I had been living a continuous prayer for the two years since our 6-year-old son was diagnosed with a particularly cruel disease. He was progressively and surely going blind. If a cure was as simple as a woman’s touching Jesus’s cloak, we were exhausted trying. But not delusional. So, when the thought arose during EFM that the lighting curiosity might be a sign that my long-winded classmate’s story would be a message for me, I dismissed it as absurd. But still.
So, I listened. He and his wife had attended Sunday services at an Episcopal church in rural Mississippi. During holy communion, the choir, seated in the chancel up front, sang anthems as the congregation wound its way to the altar rail. Rising above the chorus was the sweet voice of the only child in the choir, a 12-year-old girl he described as beautiful as an angel. Everyone marveled at her. Upon reaching the chancel, to their shock, they realized she was totally blind.
The punch line hollowed me out. No, this could not be the message, this could not be our future. I had thought I could not be more depressed, but I was.
I hid my distress in silence. Before the class ended, I came to accept that my son’s disease – as the doctors had said – was not curable, that hoping against hope was a goose chase. As shocked as my classmate was that the young girl could be so perfect, yet blind, I was as profoundly settled that my son was no less whole and as perfect a creation of the Holy as anyone.
My epiphany was not well received. Wrong interpretation, they said. Don’t give up hope! But this IS hope, I said. We’re okay. We don’t need a cure to appreciate the fullness of what we already have.
The poor man in John 9 who received the miracle of sight was met with similar suspicion. He couldn’t be the healed man, they said, isn’t he the son of that sinner? Others argued that something was amiss because a man of God would not undertake to heal someone on the Sabbath.
When God speaks, whether with the thunder of a miracle or a whisper in the dimming of light, our own expectations can get in the way. Listen for what you’re not hearing.