2-Step Healing & 2-Step Salvation
It can be a great joy for persons who were born blind to gain sight, but inevitably they discover that learning to navigate through life with vision is far more challenging than they would have guessed.
In their book In His Image, Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand point out, “At a precise time in each of our lives, normally around the age of twelve months, a profound change takes place. A person’s perception of the world moves from a predominant reliance on touch to a reliance on sight. Touch precedes and teaches sight, until the sight cells gain dependable notions of shape and distance and solidness. This learning process occurs in everyone—everyone, that is, except the blind.” (p. 153)
Those who gain sight later in life must struggle through the process most of us went through naturally as infants. Yancey and Dr. Brand report the experiences of some who gained their sight later in life: “Once these patients could see, a bewildering world of size and perspective confronted them. Previously they had a firm conception of size: an orange was about the size of a cupped hand, a face two hand-widths. In a shocking reversal, after surgery none of these rules applied. ‘How big is your mother?’ a researcher asked a sixteen-year-old girl. The girl held her index fingers a few inches apart, the same distance she had estimated for the size of a book. Her mother, standing across the room, took up about that much of her field of vision. And the sun? Obviously, it was about the size of a dime—who could believe the sun was larger than the earth?
“Gradually, over a period of months these patients had to learn the meaning of space, distance, and perspective. Vertical distances remained unfathomable for a long time, for the newly sighted had no prior conception of space beyond what they could feel by touch. Skyscrapers and trees loomed high, but how could they gauge height over ten feet, the height reachable with a cane? One patient, observing some interesting activity on the street below, stepped off the balcony of a tall apartment building and was killed….
“One young girl played with a pet cat for twenty-one days, four hours each day. Then, upon seeing a hen in a garden she squealed with delight, ‘My cat!’ After all, the thing was small and somewhat gray and it moved…. The simplest sights provoked great alarm in her: a black coat on the floor looked like the mouth of a well, a column of smoke from the chimney appeared to crack the sky in two, and the spots on her dog Muffy seemed like holes through him….
“‘How is it that I now find myself less happy than before?’ one distraught woman wailed in the midst of her training. ‘Everything that I see causes me a disagreeable emotion. Oh, I was much more at ease in my blindness!’…. Virtually all patients muddled through such despondent periods for a time. They were being asked to relearn the world, like persons abruptly deposited on another planet where the laws of physics do not apply.” (pp. 153-156)
In the spiritual realm, we need to recognize that having our souls filled by the Holy Spirit is as radical a change for us as it is for a person to gain sight. Learning to live by faith will be as rewarding and as challenging as it is for a blind person to learn to live by sight.
Perhaps this is why we encounter such a surprising healing in Mark 8:22-26 in which Jesus heals a blind man and the blind man describes people looking to him at first like trees walking. Mark’s report offers a wonderful insight into the accuracy of the gospel, for what we have here is Mark recording an incident that he could not have made sense of but which fits perfectly with modern medical knowledge.
On top of that, Mark’s report paints a picture for us of what happens not only in the physical realm but also in the spiritual realm. The restoration of sight involves two steps: the repair of the optic capacity and the expansion of the mind to learn how to live by sight. The miracle of salvation also involves two steps, both of which are encompassed in the word “salvation.” The first step is to be rescued, as when a drowning person is pulled out of the water by a lifeguard. That is what happens to us when we receive salvation from Christ. The second step has to do with salvaging. It has to do with fixing that which is broken in us. It has to do with setting things right in who we are and in how we live. It has to do with transforming our character so that we can begin living in ways that match the heart and the mind of the Savior who sets his Spirit in us. This is no easy matter. It is as challenging as it is for a formerly blind person to learn to live by sight. It requires the ongoing work of Christ in our lives.