Saturday, October 28, 2006

I was blind

I was blind and now I see. I was blind to my sexual orientation, deliberately so. The roots of my blindness came from early childhood when my parents took the best advice of the day for their 'pre-homosexual child.' But I took that in and reinforced those messages with my own denial and willful blindness. It took a voice telling me – waking me up from a sound sleep – that “I love you as you are and you are gay.” for me to see myself as I was.

And while overcoming my blindness meant a great deal of fear and trepidation as I faced telling those around me who I am and have been, it also meant a great deal of joy as pieces of my life sorted into place.

Bartimeus was blind, but there were others who saw but did not see around him. They saw him crying out and warned him not to disturb the peace. But we are called to disturb the peace so that the poor and oppressed, the ill and the prisoner, the widow and the orphan may be given help and redress. The blind may see clearly that they need help when we who see block the vision of what God expects of us.

The blindness resonates with me because of my experience of denying a part of who I am. Certainly a part of my blindness was reinforced by the culture around me. My parents took me to a psychologist when I was five and followed all the best advice for making sure that their pre-homosexual child turned out to be heterosexual (rather than having an incomplete psychosexual development), but that led me into a denial of part of my nature - an important part of anyone's nature - my sexuality.

Those who are like the blind man on the edge of society should imitate Bartimaeus. They are to cry out for help and redress. And those who don’t seem to be on the edges need to ask “Where are our spots of blindness? Where do we need to be listening to the inopportune importuning of those who are ill, the imposition of needs of those who are poverty stricken, and the outpouring of pain of those who are seen as less than able in our lives?” If we want to follow Jesus then we should listen where he listens. Not to the adoring crowd, but to the one in despair, not to the boot-lickers but those crushed underfoot, not to the power hungry but to those who have no power. And we, if those in need don’t see their needs, should be with the blind man shouting out for healing from Jesus and refusing to be shushed by those who are nice.

We are not to be alongside those in power looking for the next thing to manage. We should not be with those of wealth trying to scrounge the next dollar from someone. We should not be like those of prestige claiming the best seat in the room. We are to be those who give voice to the voiceless, who give sight to the blind, who visit the prisoner, who heal the sick, who clothe then naked, who parent the orphan. And, when we are in positions of prestige, wealth, power we shouldn’t be looking for ourselves, but for the least among us.

While the story of Bartimeus from Mark 10:46-52 is the start of my reflection, the challenge of Bartimeus leads us to other points in our journey with Scripture. The question of who knows and doesn’t know Christ at the end-time is part of why the story of Bartimeus is important. “When did we see you, Lord?” – when you did it to the least of these. “When did we ignore you, Lord?” – when you didn’t help those in need.

Unlike Bartimeus I was blind to my own needs. Bartimeus saw what he was missing and asked for help. I didn’t see what I was missing and didn’t really know that I needed it until well after I was clearly sick from denial. But we had in common that we needed help. And just like Bartimeus I received help when I asked for it after I finally recognized that something was wrong.

But we who are in the service of God – that means every Christian – shouldn’t just be waiting for the problems to arise; we should be looking for them before they are jammed into our faces. We need to ask – “who is it that God would have us minister with and to?

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