by David Hicks, CFDM Faculty Member
Driving in the fog can be a frightening and unsettling experience. On a trip from L.A. to Seattle once my wife and I found ourselves driving for several hours through fog so dark it made the afternoon feel like midnight. With hands clutched to the wheel all my senses were hyper-aware of everything around me. I drove slower and was far more attentive to my driving than I normally am on a bright and sunny day.
In the story of the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida in Mark 8 there is an interesting and unusual progression that this man’s healing takes. Jesus first of all spit on his eyes (not sure He could get away with that today). He then asked the man what he could see and the man said, “I see people that look like trees walking around”. Now, if you are as near blind as I am without contacts or glasses you know exactly what he is talking about. Jesus then touches the man’s eyes again (this time apparently with no spit which kind of makes you wonder what the point was). This time, “his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
When I read that story I find myself deeply desiring that second touch of Jesus that will clear away the spiritual fog and blurry darkness that I walk with most of the time. I want some clarity to the ‘questions of the fog’ like: Who am I? Who is God? Where am I going? How will I get there? When will I get there? How will I know when I get there? Do I even want to get there? I deeply desire for that second touch to come and make me, “see everything clearly.” But more times than not I find that I am asked to simply live within the fogginess of the first touch.
Sometimes we have experiences where everything seems clear. Jesus has allowed us to look with clarity upon a particular situation or question we have. Sometimes. But more times than not I think He asks us to sit with the un-clarity for a lot longer than we would like. Sometimes He calls us to wait in the fog of our souls unknowing because when we wait in the fog it forces us to slow down and pay attention. We become more vigilant and aware. We can’t rest in the comfort of our own clear vision, we must trust in the vision of another.
Some say that “clarity” is the goal of the spiritual life. “To see Thee more clearly” as the old musical Godspell tells us. But given human nature, at least the human nature that I struggle with, clarity does not always lead to better vision. Sometimes clarity causes us to be less aware of what we need and desire and being more aware is exactly what we need in order to draw closer to the One who is with us, even in the fog.
My experience has been that life with God is mostly lived somewhere between darkness and blue skies. Between midnight and noon, in the hazy twilight of a foggy dawn when I can only see blurry “people like trees walking around”. This is where I seem to spend most of my time. But somewhere in that place between confusion and understanding is where I usually meet God. When I have those rare times of clarity when everything comes into focus I cherish and thank God for them. But I’m also thankful for the times of plodding slowly through the fog because Jesus is just as present with me then as He is when all is bright and clear. That’s the great power, I think, of the story of the blind man of Bethsaida. Not WHAT happened to him, but WHO was with him the whole time.