I have always been that annoying person who overthinks everything. I made my 6th grade teacher absolutely nuts. One time I was arguing with her about a worksheet we had that simply said to write if each sentence was an opinion or a fact. One of the sentences said, “Sally thinks that she is pretty.” I put “fact”. Of course, I got the answer wrong.
My teacher explained, “being pretty or not pretty is an opinion. John might think Sally is ugly.” (Which I think would also be a fact!) LOL.
I tried and tried to explain to her that I thought “Sally is pretty” was an opinion but “Sally thinks that she is pretty” is an observable provable fact because you could ask Sally and you could observe how Sally acts.
When I had finally frustrated the peejeebers out of my teacher, she said, “You just need to accept the answer and go sit down!!!”
At church, I had a lot of similar experiences. When I raised my hand to ask a question, I remember getting eye rolls and heavy sighs from many a weary volunteer who wasn’t ready to delve into the mysteries of the cosmos with her elementary school students. I’m sure they were all thinking “I just signed up to share a flannelgraph story and make crafts out of popsicle sticks!” And after I frustrated the peejeebers out of my Sunday School teachers, they often said, “You just need to have faith…and go sit down.” (Which I learned means “I don’t know the answer to your question and I don’t want to think about it.”)
If you don’t know about flannelgraph awesomeness, you NEED to watch this video: here
I never quit asking questions and over analyzing things (hence the English teacher gig), but I did learn not to share all of my questions (hence the me actually having friends deal). However, through the years, I learned that God is actually super OK with my questions. When I pray, read the Bible, and freely vent my questions I’m constantly amazed at the things I discover.
The more honest I am, the more I have to admit that a lot of the things in the Bible bother me. As I do this, I have developed what I call “WTH” prayers: Where I read a passage and am honest that it seems messed up and I pray, “God, I really want to know you and represent you well, but ‘what the heck!!!’ this story is messed up!!!” (I pray a lot more of those when I read the Old Testament.)
Today’s passage actually led me to a WTH prayer.
A little background info:
The Pharisees actually taught that all problems were the direct result of sin. They even believed that babies were capable of sin in the womb and could be punished for these sins by receiving disabilities or illnesses.
It’s quite a nice philosophy if you are one of the wealthy, comfortable, elite, (like most of America). It gives you a super holy sounding excuse to not care about the majority of people in the world that don’t have life as easy as you.
For people living in poverty, or with disabilities, or illness, or any of the other struggles of normal working and living, this philosophy is crushing.
In John 9, Jesus’ disciples show that they had bought into this philosophy at least enough to apply it to people that were worse off than them (which is what most of us do). When they saw a man who had been born blind, they asked Jesus if he was blind because of his own sin or his parents.
Jesus replied “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” Woohoo! Go Jesus. You tell ‘em!
Then he continues… “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in his life…”
Wait?! What? My spoiled American, justice loving, arrogant, judgmental (even towards God), self does not quickly or easily like that answer.
Time for a WTH prayer. “Are you saying, that you caused or at least allowed this to happen just so you could show off your ‘work’ in his life? What the heck?!!!”
I feel like that makes God sound like some kind of weird creeper dude that wants to scare his girlfriend so she will need him. I know he isn’t like that but really if I let myself be honest, I don’t like this explanation of why there is suffering. Sure, it is better than “because you deserve it, you worthless sinner” but it still bothered me…
Then I remember when I had to go to driver safety class…
I was having a bad day. I was hungry, pregnant and running late. My two angelic (sarcasm) toddler sons probably gave me a little trouble getting situated in the van and I was starting to have anxiety.
I took off down the extremely straight country road which in no way should have had a speed limit of 45! Then I saw those dreaded lights and knew I’d been caught. I looked down at the speedometer as the needle was dropping from somewhere in the 80’s. This is not going to be pretty!
As I pulled over, my son, Nathan, started crying and praying. In a not-so-good parenting moment, I yelled at him. “What are you praying for now? I already got the ticket!”
The police officer came to my car, looked at my kids and gave me a long lecture about my precious cargo…He then said, “I could take your license right now but instead, I’m going to require you to go to a driver safety class and I’m going to be watching out for you.”
I hated getting a ticket with a passionate hate. It was humiliating, especially since my perfect husband still has never gotten one! But all of the fines and hassles of the class were completely worth it because I’m sure they saved my life. I still battle anxiety which makes speeding a little extra tempting, but my struggles helped me face my problem and cope with anxiety in other ways.
The problems of fines, classes, and humiliation kept me from bigger problems like wrecking my car, killing my family, or killing someone else’s family.
I think the same thing is true with God and how he works in our lives. Obviously, he doesn’t cause all of our problems. And exactly how he works is way more complicated than I can fully comprehend and certainly more than I have space for.(You just need to have faith!!! LOL)
What I do know is that sometimes God lets us have problems to free us or to protect us from bigger problems.
The blind man in John 9 was freed from the control of the Pharisees and their condemnation and it is actually a funny and awesomely cool story if you really imagine it.
Jesus put some gross spit-mud on the blind dude’s eyes and told him to go wash it off, which I’m sure he was eager to do!
The blind man washed his eyes, received his sight and went back home. All the people in his town were abuzz about it. I guess they didn’t know what to think so they took him to the professional thinkers who would tell them what to think.
The Pharisees argued back and forth about what to think. Some said Jesus couldn’t be from God because he had healed on the Sabbath. Others, maybe remembering how Jesus schooled them in chapter 7, at the Festival, said “how can a sinner perform such signs?”
They asked the blind man what he thought. He said that Jesus was a prophet. They didn’t like that answer so they decided maybe it was all fake. They then took the approach of accusing the man of lying. To help with this approach, they brought his parents in which is kind of crazy. If you are trying to prove someone is lying, you don’t usually bring in their parents.
In this time, the Pharisees had a ton of power over the people. They controlled access to God. They had decided to throw anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah out of the synagogue.
The previously blind man’s parents were scared of the Jewish leaders so they kinda threw their son under the bus by basically saying “quit asking us stuff. We don’t want to be on your bad side. Please don’t throw us out of the synagogue! We will be shunned. Ask our son stuff.” (CLF version!)
Then it gets good. They keep interrogating the once blind man. I can almost feel his disgust with them growing. I imagine him looking around at his accusers and really seeing them for the first time. He becomes emboldened and says, “Do you want to become his disciples too?”
And the Pharisees had the peejeebers irritated out of them and they started hurling insults at the healee. Their wasn’t much of a worse insult he could have given them. They were the smartest smarties and he just said, “You guys want Jesus to teach you?”
Then this healee gets even bolder. He actually ARGUED with the Pharisees. This would have been completely unheard of. He was a common, uneducated beggar.
They bragged that they were experts in the law of Moses and were his disciples, but this man Jesus, they didn’t even know where he came from.
In a moment of pure emboldened sarcastic brilliance, the healee said, “That’s remarkable, you guys don’t know where he came from” …cause you guys are the most educated people in the land, you are telling all of us how to get to God, and this one has you stumped? Here let me explain it to you…Jesus clearly did a miracle by opening my eyes. “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. He listens to godly people who do his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man not from God, he could do nothing..” “So what does that say about you if you don’t know where he came from?!”
If this happened today, he definitely would have done this:
The Pharisees clearly got the jab and they kicked him out of the synagogue.
The healee had never actually seen Jesus and had probably never even heard Jesus teach. Since he had been a blind beggar, he probably hadn’t been able to travel to the places where Jesus spoke.
So, after all the synagogue drama, he might have been a little freaked out. Jesus found this man and taught him. Jesus explained that he was the Son of Man which is a Messianic title referring back to prophesies from the book of Daniel (7:13). (Unlike Disney’s use of the phrase in Tarzan, the Jews knew that Jesus was calling himself their Messiah when he used this phrase. It is not a title that they ever applied to anyone.) When Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, the healee believed it was true and worshipped Jesus.
Soon after that, Jesus used blindness as an illustration for how the Pharisees were slaves to their rules. They studied the law all day but were so spiritually blind, they couldn’t recognize God when he was right there with them.
The wild and totally awesome thing is that the actual physically blind person had been freed from physical blindness. This led to the “work of God being displayed in his life” as he was also freed from being bound by the same spiritual blindness that the religious leaders had!
In one of the most epic scenes of history, the healee was kicked out of the established place of worship and wound up worshiping God, in person, on the street. How cool is that!!!?
So, I know I started out with “WTH God? This makes you sound like a jerk” but as I truly examine the story, I think, “WTH, how do so many of your followers miss this? Why are we so spiritually blind?”
Because our world is fallen and imperfect, we all have problems and hurts. We all have messy lives. Each one of those struggles, hurts, failures, illnesses, tragedies, and heartaches is an opportunity for God to display his work in our lives: A chance for us to be spiritually free and healed.
Life is messy. God is always good.
I am a really strange mix of a hippie, Calypso, Southern Belle, Madea- wannabe, Christian with the attitude of a Rhode Islander! I’m fascinated with people’s stories, I love to laugh at life with people and I’m genuinely trying to follow Jesus’ teachings. Strangely, my search for truth often has me at odds with American Christians who believe themselves to be the guardians of this truth. I was kicked out of Sunday School as a child for asking too many questions. I learned to repress them but my questions never went away. Thankfully as an adult, I feel completely free to pursue answers. Turns out, God is pretty big and not nearly as upset with my questions as his followers tend to be!