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Was blind, but now I see

Within the first verse of “Amazing Grace” is the phrase: “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.” Many years ago, in college, something happened to help me understand blindness.

The teacher instructed us to choose a partner.

“One of you will be blindfolded and the other will be a guide,” the teacher explained.

Everything went black as I slipped on the blindfold and allowed my partner to nudge me forward and lead me by the hand. A once-familiar classroom was now a maze of desks and chairs to bump into. No longer self-reliant, I was utterly dependent on my guide for directions and safety. But the worst was yet to come.

Leaving the classroom, we staggered down the hall. My other senses, once ignored, began to provide clues as to where we were. Laughter and talking meant other students were nearby. We must be in the hall. Ouch! That must be a door. The hard surface under my feet indicated a sidewalk. Automobile sounds fading in and out, suggested we were near a road.

“A road? Wait a minute! We’re on a road — with cars? Isn’t that — dangerous?”

“You are now stepping off the curb and onto the highway,” the teacher said.

Suddenly, my body lurched out of balance as the ground under my feet dropped eight inches. Imagine eight tiny inches with the power to disrupt everything that was secure in my life. Knowing exactly where I was never seemed to matter before, but now details were crucial. How could I take the next step if I didn’t know where that step would lead?

“Stop and listen,” commanded the teacher.

I heard the familiar sound of an automobile engine only this time it was getting louder. Alarms in my brain screamed, “You idiot, run. A car is heading straight toward you!” But the sound went safely by, only to be quickly followed by a similar sound from the opposite direction. Again, the voice inside me screamed, “Run!” But again, nothing happened.

We removed the blindfolds, rubbed our eyes and found ourselves standing in the middle of a highway.

I never fully grasped the fear and helplessness that accompanies blindness before. This was a terrifying lesson for me.

Is this what God means by spiritual blindness? At first, you think you can manage as other senses provide clues, but suddenly something shifts, like COVID-19 or racist acts in Minneapolis leading to riots, and you are thrown off balance. Your spiritual eyesight becomes crucial, but it is like you are blindfolded. How can you take next steps if you can’t see where to place your feet?

But Psalm Chapter 1 in the Bible offers hope and sight for those facing the dangers of blindness.

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked — But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants. (Psalm 1:1) This is no lighthearted promise of joy as in eating ice cream. This indescribable joy can only come from God. How do we obtain it? We begin to open our spiritual eyes and carefully watch where we place our feet. Don’t search for shortcuts. Rather, begin to look at the reality of our spiritual blindness and the benefits of relying on God.

There are two opposing principles within Psalm 1. First is the promise, “They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper.” (1:3)

In other words, the storms still exist but God gives strength to withstand and continue bearing fruit?

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For they will be like a tree planted by water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes and its leaves will be green and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”

There is no denying that racism in all its ugliness exists or that coronavirus-type pandemics or economic collapse or tragedies happen to suddenly blind you. The promise is that your trust in the Lord will see you through. Like a tree, your roots will run deep so when the storms come, you will not be anxious or afraid.

The Godly will continue to strengthen even in tragedy while the ungodly will weaken and ultimately fail.

Psalm 1 ends with a promise and a warning. “For the Lord watches over the path of the Godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.” (Psalm 1:6)

In many ways, we all have been blindsided by events in Minneapolis and by the pandemic. Our equilibrium has been knocked around. We sense danger all around us. But God can help us remove the blindfold and see with a different perspective.

Psalm 1 provides encouragement and a warning, all in the same short passage. Building a strong foundation is important.

We too were once blind but now we see. It is our honor and responsibility as God’s church to go into the world with the fire of God’s Holy Spirit and help others experience the life-saving benefits of God’s, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.