I remember a particular Sunday in October 1962. It was the first anniversary of me being blind, and I was pretty proud of myself. I had made the transition from sight to blindness with some degree of competency. I had learned Braille well enough to continue with my class. I had learned how to write with a slate and stylus, a process of writing Braille that requires learning how to write from right to left and backwards. I was adjusting to living in a residential school during the week, only coming home for weekends, and I was learning to live in the world of sound with its many mysteries and delights.
I remember this Sunday so specifically because the sermon text was on the healing of Blind Bartimaeus, and the import of the sermon was, “If you believe strongly enough God can do anything.” After worship, for the first time I remember, but certainly not the last, I remember the man who came up to me and said, “I know that if you believe enough God will heal you.”
The beginning of a life-long consideration by me was suddenly forced on me. “How much faith is enough?” “Can faith be made a commodity?” and “Is there really anything that we can do to merit God’s favor?”; these were huge questions for me, a ten-year-old. I was so proud of my accomplishments as a blind person, and I felt guilty because I wasn’t being faithful enough to even want to see again. I was having too much fun in my new life adventure.
Later, in 1968, when I was kidnapped, or maybe coercively persuaded, to be healed at an Oral Roberts rally. There I was asked, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ can heal you?” I said, “Yes, if he wants to.” When someone put their hand on my forehead and pushed be back into the arms of the people behind me, the declaration was, “In the name of Jesus, be healed!”
Then, because I wasn’t healed, I was told that I really didn’t have enough faith. On the trip home, I proudly told the people in the car that I wasn’t healed because God had things for me to do as a blind person. When I did get my eyesight back two years later, one of the people came to me and said, “I knew it could happen. It just took longer than we thought. All things are possible for God.” (Ironically, getting my eyesight back initiated the worst time of my life.)
Today, I am blind again. In many ways it was like going home. I am happy with my world of sound. I am pleased to read Braille again. I am somewhat frustrated by the world of technology, but grateful and excited by the possibilities it offers too. In many ways, this is the best time in history to be blind, and I am excited to be part of the blindness movement working to make life better for other blind people and all people living often inconvenient lives.
It is paramount for me to say to you today, “Our wholeness is in Jesus Christ. Whether one is blind, deaf, or otherwise living with a perceived disability, with that wholeness, our lives have wholeness in themselves.” Our faith is not lacking. Faith cannot be a commodity. Faith is something that can only be expressed from the places where we live. In that place of faith and centeredness, we can say, “We are not broken. We are not pitiable accidents. We do not need to be healed. We have gifts to share with the world because of own world understandings.” We have faith enough to forgive the fears of able-bodied people when they see in us their greatest nightmares. We continue to remain strong in faith—strong enough to continue knocking at the door of blessing and equity. We are uniquely created children of God, in God’s own image. Get used to it!