They told me to give it three weeks. “Your eyes and your brain are getting reacquainted again,” he said. “Your eyesight will fluctuate for the next few days.” Less than a week after eye surgery, I was tired of fluctuating. At times my vision was so crisp that it was almost too much for me—like I was somehow seeing more than I should. But this clarity came and went; I was sometimes far-sighted, sometimes near-sighted, sometimes neither very well. Perfect sight was not as immediate as I anticipated.
My inhabiting of faith and belief is not so far from this. Fittingly, I was given the charge of writing about my meandering path toward Christian belief the same week of my eye surgery. The reflective task of peering into my life, looking at patterns and history with the hope of illumination seemed ironic as I squinted to see my computer screen. But it served as a helpful metaphor. My vision of Jesus has been far from immediate. It has been much closer to a fluctuating timeline of beholding and squinting, seeing, not-seeing, and straining to see. My experience has been something more like the blind man’s from Bethsaida:
“Do you see anything?” Jesus asks after placing his hands on the man’s eyes.
The man looks up and says, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Jesus puts his hands once more on the man’s eyes, and then “his eyes were opened; his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”(1)
For those of us who want to relate to Jesus as the God of immediacy, two-staged miracles are cumbersome. I don’t want fluctuating vision. I am leery of winding roads and long journeys. I want to live knowing that he is the one who makes all things new—now. And I believe he is. But Christ also makes us ready to handle it. God is working that we might be able to stand in the very midst of the one who makes all things new—and seemingly we are not always ready.
Seeing apparently takes time and patience. Though undoubtedly, we are slow learners, all too often satisfied with walking trees. “Do you have eyes but fail to see?” It is another vision question Jesus placed before many he encountered. But this blind man knew enough not to settle with people looking like evergreens. What he saw with his own eyes was something he fortunately knew was less than eyes could see. Though partial sight was itself a miracle, the one who touched him—and he himself—had in mind something more.
How interesting, then, that Jesus’s two-staged miracle takes place immediately following an exchange with the Pharisees who were looking for a miraculous sign that Jesus was not offering, as well as an exchange with the disciples who were in the very presence of light itself and yet somehow kept failing to see. Mark seems to be telling us that seeing takes time, that learning to see is a process, but also, that Christ is ever-patient with those who do not see. In our best attempts to consider God, wrote Augustine, we are essentially asking the everlasting Light to “lighten our darkness.” Perhaps the miracle of sight is less like a light switch and more like a series of lights God strings together until we can finally see.
Vision, not unlike redemption, wholeness, or revelation, is at times a process by which Christ must dazzle gradually, as Emily Dickinson said. Other times we may find ourselves moved nearly to blindness as we encounter more than we have eyes yet to see. But God is always at work in the process, even when all we might be seeing are walking tress. Yet, “do you see anything?” Jesus asks as often we need him, while holding near the well-lit miracle that one day we shall see him face to face.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Mark 8:23-25.