During my student teaching placement, I got to know the sweetest little girl named Mila. She was blind and had autism and her favorite thing in the world was listening to the song Old McDonald and every single day her hair was in the cutest pigtails ever. Because she couldn’t see people with her eyes, she learned to recognize them by feeling their faces. When you were talking she’d come up real close and put her hands on your face, searching for your nose and your eyes and your hair and your ears. It was her way of mapping who you were, and making sure she was safe around you.
I was thinking about Mila the other day when I was thinking about how I want to know the Lord. I know I don’t have all the senses with which I’ll one day see him. I know that so much of God remains dark to me, that I only can sense in part what in heaven will be revealed in whole.
Because of this seemingly hidden nature of God, I have a tendency to make my decisions and go through my life using just what’s in front of my eyes. I rely on my own intelligence and intuition to guide me. I consult the map of scripture, common sense and other’s life experience to mark my path and light my way. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with this, but I do think there sometimes is a better way.
Mila, when she needed to get somewhere, could also rely on adapted senses. She used a cane to help her walk, felt braille outside of doors, and had an amazing ability to memorize the layout of spaces and repeat her motions. Still even with all of this, she was often fearful and hesitant when traveling within the school. When using her cane she walked slowly and timidly. She was constantly searching for danger in her environment, and pausing to check for clues she was indeed on the right path. She moved through the halls with bravado and bravery, but also clearly burdened by the fear and uncertainty that darkness brings upon us.
There was one time that Mila would walk freely down the halls though, times when she was holding a trusted friend’s hand. Then she could laugh and smile, safe in knowing she had a loving guide taking her where she needed to go, who would protect her all along the journey there. In those moments she wasn’t relying on tools that could help her make sense of the dark, but was fully trusting in a person, one who could see far more than she could and was a faithful and steady guide. She walked freely down the hallway, as long as she knew a guide was right beside her.
I want to be more like this. I want to spend less time consulting maps and plans and trying to mark a path for my life. I want to spend less time obsessing over the ground my feet are currently walking and the direction I’m heading. I want instead to feel God’s face and memorize it, then grab his hand and walk where he’s going. I want to rely more on my intimacy with the Lord than anything else, trusting him and where he’s going. I want to crumple my crudely drawn maps I’ve marked using landmarks I rely on for safety, and instead feel for the Lord’s face, to map with my very own hands every inch of who he is and trust in the safety of his presence alone.
I believe this is really possible. God doesn’t want me wandering in the dark, and while he sometimes feels far away I’m learning still to seek him in new ways, feeling for his face even when I can’t see. This looks like a lot of prayer, a lot of silence, a lot of listening. It looks like closing my eyes and raising my hands during worship, believing God is really there, refusing to move until I feel him. It looks like being still a lot more often than I’d like too. But here’s what I’m finding out- God really is here. When I rely on his spirit and his presence alone, he’s just waiting to be found out.
I can make out more of him each time I practice this, tracing his kindness, faithfulness, and direction with my hands. I can feel his leading, lean into what I think is his will, rest solidly in his presence. I’m not worried about what’s in front of my feet but rather focused on the face whose in front of me- pouring all of my energy into mapping out who God is and how much he loves me- so I can trust that where he’s leading is in fact where I’m going. I’m learning to be led my God’s very spirit, trusting just in the fact that his hand is strongly holding mine and nothing else. I’m learning that walking blindly isn’t something to be feared at all, but an invitation into a beautiful sweet trust and a gift that ushers in his presence. Amen