March 19, 2023 Seeing from the Heart by Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, our God.

Why would Jesus say that those who have sight will become blind? It could mean that those of us who have sight are actually blind to the things that those who are blind can see.

A few years ago, I told you the story of Jacques Lusseyran, a blind French resistance fighter during WWII. After a terrible accident when he was 7 years old, he lost sight in both eyes. At that time, people who were blind had few options. They could cane chairs, play an instrument for religious services or beg for money. His doctor recommended that he be sent to a residential school for the blind. But his parents refused. Instead, they worked with their local, public school to make arrangements for him to remain in his classroom and learn to use a Braille typewriter. His parents never pitied him nor described him as unfortunate. Instead, they urged him to discover new things. Perhaps this is what gave him the gift of spiritual sight. Only ten days after his accident, he discovered light within. He writes,

I felt it gushing forth every moment and brimming over; I felt how it wanted to spread out over the world. I had only to receive it…This was something entirely new…since it contradicted everything that those who have eyes believe. The source of light is not in the outer world. We believe that it is only because of a common delusion. The light dwells where life also dwells: within ourselves.[1]

Jacques wasn’t only referring to metaphorical light. He was experiencing actual light which allowed him to sense objects and the emotional state of people. He learned to listen astutely to the echo of sound and could describe the shape of trees. He learned to listen to the subtle energy of humans (and not-so-subtle) and was able to identify Nazi traitors and the safe confidence of resistors simply by attuning to their persona. Because of this, he became a leader in the resistance.

He also discovered that when he grew sad, angry or fearful, his interior light dimmed. He began to walk into things, as his distress blocked his ability to listen astutely to his surroundings.  When he recovered his joy and attentiveness, the light returned. Lusseyran learned that people with sight usually focussed on the superficial, quickly scanning and missing the depth. But when you see with your fingers, you go much slower and notice what is usually overlooked. “Since becoming blind,” he wrote, “I have paid more attention to a thousand things.”

Barbara Brown Taylor writes that Lusseyran helped her realize that her sight gave her cheap confidence that one quick glance at things can tell her what they are. Her sight distracted her from learning how the light inside her works. It fooled her into thinking that she has a clear view of how things really are, of where the road leads, of who can see rightly and who cannot. In essence, Barbara Brown Taylor’s sight made her blind.[2]

The word “insight” directs our attention to the interior light that Lussyeran saw and which each one of us can access. Insight refers to an inner understanding—an illumination that highlights the subtle shades that are lost in bright sunlight.

Today, we are moving into our annual AGM. We have the promise of a full leadership slate with incredible leaders. And we have the challenge of a significant deficit budget. We also have the potential of the vision being massaged by our insightful Visioning Committee. We have much to celebrate and much work to do.

My prayer for us today is for us to see beyond the superficial so that we can access God’s inner light of wisdom. Let us listen with our heart so that we can truly see one another and find an insightful, common vision for how Westworth may continue to be the hands and feet of Christ for this community and beyond.

[1] Jacques Lusseyran, Against the Pollution of the I.

[2] Barbara Brown Taylor, “Light Without Sight,” Christian Century March 24, 2014