Light Can Make You Blind

There was a solar eclipse when I was in the third grade. Our teacher took us outside to look at it. "Now, don't look directly at the sun," she told us. What? My eight-year-old mind tried to figure out how in the world we were supposed to look at the eclipse without looking at the sun. To this day I'm puzzled. But they say you can go blind by staring at the sun. It's funny to me that the very thing by which we see is also the thing that can steal our vision. I drove west last night, sun piercing sharp through the windshield, glinting off the cars around me. I squinted and squirmed and repositioned the car's visor. It is harder to drive into that kind of sun than it is to drive in the dead of night.

We need light to see. Light can make us blind.

Our eyes are brilliant, you know. Our pupils shrink when we stare into the light, and when we look away, even what once seemed light is obscured into darkened shadows--silhouettes against the bright. What once seemed clearest is harder to discern. But if we force ourselves to sit in darkness, our eyes adjust to that too. Our pupils dilate to adjust for the lesser light until they can discern shapes from the shadows.

I wonder if our faith is not much different.

When we live passively in the dim reality of this world, a persuasively comfortable lamp is lit in an otherwise darkened room. We construct a kind of meaning around life. We "find the good" in things. We find the purpose. We explain God. We even start explaining things to God.

And then, in a moment, the room flashes white and goes black.

The meaning and the purpose and all the explanations we'd constructed are a vague memory. Our eyes, dilated as they were inside that dimly lit room, scream and ache. We grope around for anything familiar. We wonder if this is punishment. We hear sermons or "encouragement" about how there is no darkness in God, and we wonder, then, where it is that we have gone. To this place where there is darkness. To this place where we cannot see.

If I didn't follow You here, Lord, then I don't know You at all. I whispered it into the darkness. I whispered it into the void.

And a few mornings later, I opened to Psalm 139:12: "even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You." Everything in me breathed a sigh of relief. Because it's true that there is no darkness in God, but there is sometimes darkness in and around us. Even then, we can trust that the God that we cannot see is a God who can see. That darkness is not dark to Him. That night is as bright as the day.

Sometimes, in a brilliant flash of glory, He upends everything we thought we knew. And it is for the best. It is for our good. And sometimes it is the blinding light of God Himself that steals our vision to give us His.

In chapter 8 of the gospel of Mark, Jesus was on a boat with His disciples. Jesus had already fed a crowd of 5000 and another of 4000. But this afternoon, the disciples "began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread" (Mark 8:16). Did they doubt His ability to feed them even after He’d fed the masses? Don’t we all? "And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, 'Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?'" (Mark 8:17-18).

When they got to the next town, He restored the sight of a man who had been blind since birth. When he encountered Jesus, Jesus spit on his eyes and laid His hands on him. "Do you see anything?" Jesus asked the man. "I see people, but they look like trees walking." So Jesus laid His hands on the man’s eyes again, and "and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly" (Mark 8:25).

We haven’t all been blind since birth. But sometimes our faith goes black when the world goes dark. We catch a blinding glimpse of God, and we lose what little sight we had. We sit on a boat, having witnessed the miracles of the One we're with, and we worry that we have no bread. We have eyes and cannot see. We have ears but do not hear. We do not remember. And find we need the Son of God to spit upon our eyes—not to condemn but to restore real sight. Here’s the thing about a God who will spit in our eyes, it means His face is right in front of ours.

We might have had sight before, but it wasn’t the kind of sight that could look into the face of God. Maybe you need to hear Him whisper, with His face right there beside your ear, “Do you see anything?”

Yes, Lord. I see men, but they look like trees. I see my family, but they look like enemies. I see my work, but it looks like a waste. I see opportunities, but they look like chores. I see dreams, but they look like nightmares. I see my home, but it looks like a prison. I see You, but I'm not sure I know You.

In response, He places His hands on our eyes again, and we open our eyes to restored sight. We see clearly things we’d never known we couldn’t see. And we realize that it wasn't darkness that stole our vision but a flash of light against the dimness we'd accepted as inevitable.

As we blink through the blur of new vision, we squint just a little at the Light. Because we are staring into the face of the Son of God. And we remember that staring at the sun can make us blind. Yes, it can. Unless it was the Son of God who gave us sight.