Jazz pianist George Shearing was born blind, but crafted a remarkably successful career. Self-pity wasn’t in his DNA.
He fearlessly navigated crowded downtown sidewalks with his dark glasses and white cane. At a busy London intersection during rush hour one day he was hoping some compassionate soul would help him across. Someone tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me sir, would you mind helping a blind man cross the street?”
He started to tell the stranger that he too was blind. Instead he said, “Be glad to, my friend. Here, take my arm.” And off they went. Tires screeched, horns blared, cabbies cursed. But they made it safely across.
George often told the story, laughing uproariously. “I’ll never do it again” he said, “but I’m glad I did it once. It was one of the biggest thrills of my life!”
The name Helen Keller conjures up an image of courage in the face of overwhelming odds. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Author, political activist, lecturer, she was a woman of uncommon intelligence, unrelenting ambition, and unsurpassed accomplishment who devoted her life to helping others.
Leonard Burford was born with retinitis pigmentosa. At 14 he was reading Braille; at 28 he was totally blind. Even so, he graduated college with honors, studied at the renowned Juilliard School, and received his doctorate from Columbia University. He was head of the Music Department at Abilene Christian University for 24 years. His countenance was always cheerful, his stride always confident.
A disproportionate percentage of Jesus’ healing miracles were those of giving or restoring sight to the blind.
Was it because of the assertive, get-it-done spirit in many of the visually impaired? Like George Shearing, Helen Keller, and Leonard Burford?
Or because of the extraordinary faith of the sightless?
The entourage of Mark 10:46-52 was boisterous. A blind beggar asked what the commotion was about and was told that Jesus was walking by. He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Told to put a sock in it, he cranked up the volume: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.
“Teacher, I want to see.”
“Go, you are healed because you believed,” Jesus said.
Similar persistence and faith are on display in Matthew 9:27-29, where two blind men followed Jesus, shouting “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”
“Do you believe that I can do this?” Jesus asked.
“Let it be done for you according to your faith,” he said. Or as J.B. Phillips has it: “You have believed and you will not be disappointed.”
Spiritual blindness in those with 20/20 physical vision is not uncommon. Jeremiah chided “foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear” (Jer. 5:21). God told Ezekiel: “You are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear” (Eze. 12:2).
Jesus needled his closest disciples: “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear” (Mk. 8:17, 18).
What is it you’re facing? Pray for his intervention.
But be prepared for his question: “Do you believe that I can do this?”