Thursday, August 28, 2008

a man born blind.

I reviewed his chart before I entered the room. Admitted to the hospital last night, his lab tests were dismal. Low WBCs. Anemia. Urine sedimentation. Bilateral lung infiltrates. Blood cultures pending, although they would likely be positive. All the evidence pointed to severe pneumonia & sepsis. His body would shut down without medical intervention. Infection would take over, stopping kidney filtration, dropping his blood pressure, & finally affecting the other important organs inside his Earthly cage of skin, muscle, & bone.

As I stood up to put the blue binder back in the metal holder, I noticed a sign on the sliding glass door. Printed haphazardly on a sheet of white computer paper were the words “Patient is blind & deaf”. An announcement to each passerby: FEEL SORRY FOR THE MAN INSIDE THIS ROOM.

The blue checkered curtain that now hung between his sleeping body & my own ran vertically from floor to ceiling. Hung to protect the patient’s privacy; it was a bit of an oxymoron, based on the scarlet letter that hung just two feet from where I was standing.

His half opened mouth & emaciated limbs greeted me at the edge of the curtain. Tangled in a pile of sterilized white blankets he looked peaceful with legs bent & strung sideways beneath the mound of cloth that was meant to keep him warm. Long, thin arms were folded across his chest, moving slowly with the rise & fall of his respirations. Silent, labored breathing filled the room alongside the beeps of his IV drip & low whistle of the oxygen supply that was slowly feeding his ever-failing lungs.

At 52, his hair had already grayed. His protruding jaw & tightly skinned lips exposed the poor dentition that had carried him through his meals of applesauce & bananas since infancy. His skin was shiny, hands strangers to the rigors of a life of labor & physical work. With overgrown cuticles, the small pieces of lint & dirt that nestled themselves underneath his fingernails were the only evidence of mobility I could find.

But really, I didn’t blame him. He’d been born deaf & blind. Unable to see the face of his mother, who was now clearly gone from his life. His deafness had prevented him from hearing the sweet sounds of music, the laughter of children, and joys of the Holiday Season. Imagine. Never hearing Christmas bells, the harmonious tune of flute, or the soft “I love you” of a mother’s whisper.

At that moment, though, I was grateful he was deaf. Grateful that his condition prevented him from hearing the constant beeps & whistles & bells that fill the sterile corridors of the hospital. Grateful that his condition protected his confidence from hearing the nurses’ sour-faced pity about his gravid & quickly decompensating state. And I was grateful that his eyes didn’t carry visual stimuli to his brain; that he was blind to the metal bed cage his body rested in, blind to the worn white walls of his hospital room, and unable to see the look of shame in my own eyes when I first moved the curtain aside.

You see, I judged him. Immediately. I questioned his usefulness in this world. I questioned what God may have been thinking when he allowed the creation of an innocent child who would enjoy a life of only darkness & silence. I questioned the government’s provision of this man with monthly checks that undoubtedly skipped the intended recipient & went into the bank account of his then-absent caregiver. And I questioned my opposition to a child from my own womb that could someday be born without the joy of two of life’s most gratifying senses.

But at that moment, God intervened. And I was overcome with emotion. Careful not to contaminate my face, I had no choice but to let the few drops escape from the corners my eyes. They landed on the lapel of my pressed white coat.

The sounds of beeps & whistles became the shouts of vendors & chatter of people along a street in Jerusalem. The blue checkered curtain, a wooden fence & the tile floor a cobblestone street, my feeble patients bed had turned into a hand-woven rug. It was a busy street. And suddenly…

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?" J
esus said, "You're asking the wrong question.
You're looking for someone to blame.
There is no such cause-effect here.
Look instead for what God can do.
We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines.
When night falls, the workday is over.
For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light.
I am the world's Light."

He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva,
rubbed the paste on the blind man's eyes, and said,
"Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam" (Siloam means "Sent").
The man went and washed—and saw.
–John 9:1-9

And then I knew. Look instead for what God can do. This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life (verse 3, NIV).

This man with nothing to say, this patient with nothing to give, reminded me of God’s promise to us. That this body is not eternal, this rib cage that holds our beating hearts will not be the vessel that carries us into eternity. That this life is not the end—we have something much greater to look forward to. And that these joys we experience each day are gifts.

Most of all, however, that this man has been able see. His entire life, He’s been seeing the world’s Light. And the uncomprehendable babbles that later came from this man’s mouth just might have been praises—gratitude to a God who is finally taking him home.


Rebecca said...

I found your blog from a comment you left on SimpleMom. What a truly great post you've written! I agree with every word. As homeschoolers, my 7 year old daughter & I have been reading the story of Helen Keller, which makes your insights all the more timely. I can't wait to incorporate some of what you've said into our lesson. This account was so moving & just what I needed to be reminded of: It's all about HIM.

Craig said...

You can stand by my hospital bed anytime.

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