New eyes

January 2, 2013 | Viewpoints
Melissa Miller |

When my friend told me she was knitting a scarf for her husband, I foolishly exclaimed, “But you don’t knit!” Foolish, I say, because she should know if she knits or doesn’t. She corrected me, and let me know she’d actually been a knitter for decades. Similarly another long-time friend confessed she bites her nails, something I would never have imagined, given her calm and serene manner. A third friend shared that she has many piles of stuff in her house and on her desk, making it difficult to keep track of where everything is. When I told her the same was true for me, she replied, “Really, Melissa? You have piles of stuff? I’d never have thought it.”

All of these conversations got me thinking about what we don’t know about the people who are closest to us—the friends we’ve known for decades, the family members we’ve watched grow from infancy, the siblings with whom we shared our earliest years, our spouses. How can it be that these people—our close friends and family members—can still surprise us with who they are and who they aren’t? Are these qualities hidden in the mysteries of their beings, or are we just not looking/listening closely?

Such meditations fit in well with New Year’s. At least for me, I come to the new year with a hope that I will learn and grow and improve in the twelve long months stretching before me—a blank stretch of empty days and nights which will end with me being “a better person”—kinder, more tolerant, wiser, more aware. Seeing my loved ones more clearly and fully fits into such a goal.

Seeing clearly is the theme of John 9, where Jesus heals a man born blind. The miraculous gift of new sight isn’t the only set of eyes that are under discussion though. The passage begins with the disciples wondering about suffering—who or what causes it to happen? After Jesus answers their question, he then heals the blind man, and sets off a community dispute about boundaries of who is included and who is excluded; judgment; openness and closed-ness to God’s grace through Jesus; and different kinds of blindness.

Throughout the story, people, including the blind man, are invited to see others more clearly, more truthfully. Near the end of the passage, Jesus proclaims, “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.” (v 39 The Message)

Reading this passage, I imagine Jesus would resonate with the conflict resolution instruction to “move from judgment to curiosity.” In the healing story in John 9, Jesus encourages his disciples to be curious about how God’s work is revealed. He gradually invites the formerly blind man to see him more clearly. He challenges the religious leaders to take the blinders from their eyes. The judgments of Jesus are aimed at revealing God’s goodness.

We too may have blinders—judgment or other kinds of blinders—that prevent us from seeing other people clearly. Maybe we could lay aside those blinders, and with curiosity, look and listen with openness and attentiveness to the people around us. Such curiosity might lead us to seeing them more clearly. And we might learn something new!

Melissa Miller ( lives in Winnipeg. She is wrapped in the family ties of daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend and pastor.

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