We speak very blithely of blind faith, with no real awareness of what the phrase actually means. Watching a newborn kitten or puppy snuffling around its mother in its basket will give you an inkling, but a newborn has no experience outside the womb to call upon, thus no apprehension of danger, so it isn’t such a good example. A newborn kitten has no idea of the vastness surrounding it until its eyes open and start to work.
For us humans, blind faith is a frightening concept. Whom do you trust implicitly always to have your best interest at heart, and to lead you safely through the hazards of a world you can’t see? In some cities, like Zurich and Berlin, there are special restaurants where everything is pitch dark. The staff are blind, and know their way around. Sighted guests suddenly find themselves in an unfamiliar situation where they have to be led by the hand to their place and fumble about as they eat food they can only smell and taste but not see. They have to trust their guide to serve properly cooked edible dishes, with no nasty surprises. It’s an experience that can give us valuable insights into the world of the blind.
My epiphany occurred several years ago when I was hospitalised with damaged corneas due to a leakage of bleaching solution while having my eyelashes dyed. The price of vanity! Both eyes had a pressure dressing to keep them tightly closed and for a few days I experienced what it means to be blind.
The first sensation is total disorientation: you think you know where things are but when you put your hand out and grope for them, they are a little bit further to the left or right, closer or further away than you thought. Managing a knife and fork was out for me, even a spoon was a problem, so it was sandwiches and soup from a cup.
The idea of getting out of bed and walking around was terrifying, but of course they don’t let you stay in bed in hospital unless it’s absolutely necessary, so I was helped to my chair where I could feel the safety of its back and sides and my feet firmly on the floor. Standing produced a mild sense of vertigo. Then came the really scary part, when I needed the loo. The bathroom was just outside my room, and my bed was the one nearest the door, but the prospect of that first excursion put me in a cold sweat.
It was at this moment that I understood what Blind Faith means. The nurse came and took both my hands in hers, raising me to my feet. Then she walked backwards in front of me and guided me, pushing and pulling me gently to the left or right as I placed one hesitant foot in front of the other, until I could feel the rim of the lavatory at the back of my legs. At this point she left me, and I simply had to trust that she had really and truly locked the bathroom door and not left it wide open with me in full view of every passer-by. When I was ready, I felt around and found the emergency button, and my guide came to take me back to bed. That was when I realised I literally had to have blind faith in my nurse.
My blindness lasted only a short time, and eventually my corneas regenerated themselves. But this brief episode left a lasting impression on me, and I have enormous sympathy and admiration for blind and deaf-blind people who cope with their disability in such courageous ways all the time.
The fact of discovering what blind faith means on a practical level also reinforced my trust in God on a spiritual level, and has kept me buoyant through many difficult moments.
I walk by faith and not by sight
My eyes are weak and dim
But in my soul I see the light
That shines my path to Him.
The road is long, its surface rough,
My steps are slow – I falter,
Your Word’s my lamp, and bright enough,
Your Word will never alter.
Your hand holds mine as You lead me
Through blackest, darkest night.
I follow though I cannot see:
I walk by faith, not sight.