From the Heart
Dear Friends in Christ,
A few months ago I picked up a new pair of glasses and had the frames adjusted for me in the store. Everything seemed fine for distance and reading, but there was a slight blurriness in my peripheral vision which I figured was par for the course with a new prescription. It was not until I had left the store and began to drive home that I realized something was terribly wrong. I had trouble reading the gauges on the dashboard and when I looked out at the oncoming traffic's headlights, everything in my field of vision was blurry such that the headlights looked like fuzzy stars—I had to put my old glasses back on just to make the drive home. It was quite an unnerving experience.
Looking out at the world today makes me feel just as unsettled. Things seem out of focus, our family’s schedule is turned upside down, and it is sometimes hard to keep track of the days. Yet, there is enough of what seems normal on the surface that hides a deeper sorrow. As I write, the sun is shining, and I hear the gentle hum of a lawnmower in the distance. Sometimes life seems normal at first blush—just like I could see fine sitting in front of the optician in the store—but the closer we look, the fuzzier things become, even to the point of being unrecognizable at times. What are we seeing? Is this a bad dream that will just go away? Will things ever clear up, and if so, will the world look the same when things come into focus? We do not know the answer to these questions, and this is the hardest part about our lives today. There is so much that we do not know.
As I ponder these questions, I am reminded of the story of Jesus and the blind man at Bethsaida from Mark 8. In the story, Jesus and his disciples are passing through Bethsaida along the Sea of Galilee when some people bring a blind man to him to be healed. Jesus took the blind man out of the village, put saliva on his eyes, and laid hands on him. Then he asked the man to tell him what he saw. The man replied that he could make out people, but they looked like walking trees—it was an improvement, but this was obviously not the right prescription!
After five weeks of social distancing, of having our world turned upside down, it seems like the dust has settled just enough to make out the contours of life, but not with the clarity of 20/20 vision. It may be better than being blind, but only by a small factor. But we know from the story that Jesus was not done with the blind man. Jesus laid his hands on the man’s eyes again, and after squinting a little, the man could see clearly. His sight was restored! We do not know whether Jesus took two steps to restore the man’s sight, but in the end, the man went from being in darkness to seeing walking trees to full clarity of vision. Jesus did not stop until the man’s vision was restored, and neither will he stop until we are restored.
These are clearly unsettling times, and a time of great suffering and uncertainty. Still, these are not hopeless times. Christ is alive! Although we are not able to worship in person, our services are reaching a wider audience than we could have imagined when the Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. Despite social distancing, there is a strong sense of spiritual closeness and kinship with every prayer request we share; with every call, text, or email from a brother or sister in Christ; with every video meeting; and with every longing to be together in person.
After a day of frustration with my new glasses, I returned to the store to share my concerns. The optician double-checked my prescription and the measurements on my lenses to indicate where they should transition from distance correction to reading correction. She assured me everything was correct, and then began to adjust the frames. I was skeptical as I put the same lenses back on, and in fact everything seemed the same. I told her to wait while I ran out to the car to see if I could read the gauges and clearly distinguish oncoming traffic. I got to the car, sat down in the driver’s seat, and lo and behold I could see clearly. Her adjustments worked! Friends, the clarity will come. The answers to our questions about the future will come. Or at the very least, the Holy Spirit will give us the strength to bear the next steps—to make out the shapes in the darkness. It will come. Jesus is the same today as he was before this pandemic. Jesus loves us, he is with us, and his ministry of healing and reconciliation does not stop. Let us take heart and continue to trust in the Lord.