I thought that mine was the only kind of darkness, and everyone else walked in light and could see where they were going. I used to wonder what it was like – to be able to see, to know, to work; to run without fear of falling, to read the expression of a face, to know who was beautiful and who was plain. I concentrated on what I could know: the feeling of heat and cold, of softness and hardness, wet and dry; the beauty or ugliness of voices, the kindness or cruelty of words. That was the compass of my world; those were the boundaries of my life. I heard the words – red, blue, dirty, twilight, stars – but how could I know what they meant? I was blind from birth.
I was used to sitting there begging, hearing both the pity and the scorn of those who passed by; despised by many because they believed that my disability was the sign of God’s judgement on some terrible sin. Can a man sin in his mother’s womb? It made no sense to me, but beggars cannot afford to show pride, so I said nothing.
Then one day a man came and put mud on my eyes. Now, people do strange things to torment the blind, but there was no mockery in the authoritative voice that told me to wash in the Pool of Siloam. So (not exactly having anything better to do) I went and washed, and came home seeing! It was so simple, so complete, so overwhelming!
And then, just when I was seeing for the first time, trying to take in colour and shape and movement until my head was spinning with wonder, I found out how truly blind sighted people could be. Even my own neighbours questioned my identity! But when they got the Pharisees involved, it became ridiculous. First they suggested that the Healer could not be from God, because I was healed on the Sabbath (Does not God make the sun to rise and the rain to fall on the Sabbath as surely as any day? Why should He not restore a man’s sight?) Then they tried to make out that the whole story was made up and I hadn’t been blind at all.
Finally they got my poor parents involved. They knew absolutely nothing about what had happened, but they could certainly attest to my blindness. This did not make the Pharisees happy, so they wanted to see me again. I was getting a little tired of this, had I been given this glorious gift of sight to waste it on their disapproving faces? And when I came, all they wanted to harp on about was that the Healer must have been a sinner. What?!
Their obsession made no sense to me. For many years I have been a beggar, did someone’s act of giving me a coin make them evil if they gave it on the wrong day of the week? Does a beggar even question such things? No, he is thankful for the gift. But now that someone had given me a far more glorious gift for a far worse need I was expected to condemn Him on their say-so? I couldn’t.
Sometimes, in a blinding flash, as sudden as the gift of sight, you know what really matters. “Look,” I said, “I have no idea whether this man is a sinner. This one thing I know: I was blind, but now I can see!” Only a fool would reject the wonderful gifts of God for the crazy theories of men who imagine themselves to be religious experts, but cannot see the mighty works of God when they happen under their noses.