He could have watched it all day – rejoicing in the sheer wonder of it. He knew enough now to know it was a bird, but he had no idea what kind. A five year old child would probably have laughed at his ignorance, but then he had only had his eyes opened for a matter of weeks – as a mature adult he was still learning to see the world for the first time. All that time he had lived in darkness, enduring the confusion, and poverty, and the petty malice of people who jostled or tripped him, or deliberately set him off in the wrong direction. He had developed patience (there is no point trying to retaliate when you cannot see your opponent) and a quick tongue, because, after all, a man had to develop whatever he did have, and use it to smooth his way however he was able. And darkness was the only world he had ever known. But he had never realised how much he lacked, had never understood (since he was born blind) what the concept of ‘seeing’ was really all about. And now? His soul was flooded with beauty – it seemed a waste of time to do anything else in life other than simply look.
And look he did. This bird, whatever it was, was magnificent. Every line of its body was a graceful curve – the tilt of the head, the arch of the neck, the lift of the wing. He had spent ten minutes watching it move across the ground, pecking here and there for scraps of food, then, with a tiny tremble, it had spread its wings and soared. He watched with deep awe as it moved across the sky, repeating so nonchalantly the incredible miracle of flight, and then shook his head in amazement that no one else stopped to look. He was realising there was more than one kind of blindness.
He was seeing other things too, things that he had never realised before he had eyes to see for himself. He was seeing that some people had so much more than others. He was seeing the hardness on the faces of the Romans, and the coldness on the faces of the Pharisees. He was seeing children who did not have enough to eat, and women who scuttled in the shadows of shame. He was seeing that the temple was beautiful, but despite all the rituals of the law, the presence of God was not there. He was seeing beggars who were sons of Abraham cringe and crawl before the contempt of richly dressed priests and temple officials who were also sons of Abraham. Sometimes his newly healed eyes were full of tears of pity or anger.
But there was something else, or, rather, Someone else, who had changed and affected his vision -- the Rabbi, the Teacher, the Healer, the One he now called Lord. Only twice had he met Him, only once had he seen Him, but those encounters had changed his life forever. The first time the Healer had simply put something on his eyes (mud, as it turned out) and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. It was, on the face of things, a crazy request, yet he did not feel it as a request, but as a command that went right down to the root of all things. And, somehow, he was healed – after a lifetime of darkness he could see! His mind reeled with the sensory confusion of shape and colour. That was the first time.
The second time didn’t come till later, after the authorities had questioned his parents, and then himself, and finally thrown him out after he stuck to the facts of his story and questioned their attempts to rewrite it. By then he had realised that there were far worse forms of confusion than being overwhelmed by the form of things – there were those, supposed to be the teachers of Israel, the guardians of truth, who seemed to be totally confused about the substance of things, and couldn’t recognise Truth when He walked in front of them.
It was only after all this that he met Him again, and this encounter was to change him, and deliver him from blindness, even more than the first one did. When he tried to explain it to his family, they just looked confused. How do you explain to someone who hasn’t been there? It was like someone trying to describe the flight of a bird to him when he was blind. He had met his Healer, he had seen His face, he had heard Him name Himself, and that was the truest, deepest healing, but all he could say, in the end, was, “I have seen the Lord!” And that was everything, and ever after he saw the world not merely by the light of the sun and the moon, but by the Light of Love in the eyes of the One who had sought him and healed him and called him to worship.