Blind Faith

Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. John 20:29

It was a Sunday morning in worship service at communion time. The ushers were directing the congregants on the left side of the church into a line to receive communion. A couple who raise puppies to become seeing-eye dogs for the blind took their place in line. As the pastor and communion assistants offered the elements to the couple, the dog looked up at the pastor, softly whimpered, and gave a glance up as if to say I want the blessing, too. The trainers of the dog gently ushered the little fellow back to the pew. The pup did not receive communion but his presence in the Lord’s sanctuary still brought him a blessing.

The adorable puppy attending worship is in a program that trains and disciplines puppies to become seeing eye dogs. The puppy is trained to prepare him to lead a blind person who will be dependent on this animal’s skills and instincts for safety and guidance. These dogs make it possible for blind persons to work, go to school, and live a productive life because of the training and protective instincts of these dogs. As part of the training of these puppies, they are never given food and treats as a prize for doing something well. Instead they are always given love. Trainers will reward the puppies with kindness, petting, and hugs. Because the trainers themselves have big hearts and loving homes, the puppies learn quickly about love. When love is received, love is returned because it is modeled. These dogs become exceedingly affectionate companions to the blind people they serve and their families. The blind persons come to trust these dogs; a trust established out of mutual necessity and the consistent responses by the dogs.

In many churches October is the time designated for the blessing of the animals in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis had an unusual affection for animals and considered them his family. It is right to want to see our pets blessed by God since our pets are our family. Our furry and feathered friends live with us and come to know us, our personalities, and routines in the same way that our loved ones do. Pets offer a presence and a comfort to us that makes home what it is. When we think of the goodness in our lives the companionship that pets bring is indeed a blessing from the Lord.

Pets are creatures that offer companionship but steady and secure companionship is something only Jesus can give to us. His companionship has no equal. He remains lovingly present with us throughout our lives. Faith pleases God. Faith signifies love and trust. Sometimes love involves blind faith; not knowing at all what the future will bring but placing one’s full weight of trust on God’s promise to never leave us. Blind faith is essential when difficult seasons come and life’s pains are deep and debilitating. Grief is one of these seasons. It can be one of the loneliest and darkest times in life. The loss of a loved one and/or a dramatic change in circumstances that sever us from what was can bring us inside caverns of emotions we have never known. We may think we are to navigate all this alone. We are wrong. Jesus is there. Not only does He remain in dark and sorrowful seasons, He knows the way through them and out of them into the light for He is the Light. His promises are never more trustworthy than when we have to live out the promises for ourselves. Once we walked through a personal valley and have owned the truth of His faithfulness, we cannot doubt Him and His promises.

Think back to the telling of the appearance of the Lord Jesus after He rose from the dead and went to see His disciples. He met with Thomas who doubted this was Jesus. Thomas wanted proof that this was really the One who had gone to the Cross on Calvary to shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins. Thomas required evidence. The scars on the Lord’s hands from when He was nailed to the Cross were the proof Jesus offered and Thomas accepted then proclaimed my Lord and my God (John 20:28). Jesus provided the physical proof Thomas needed but the Scripture above indicates Jesus added that there is a blessing for those who believe without physical proof.

Blind faith looks to the heart of God and what He has said in His Word, not to the details of circumstances to find assurance that we are not on pain’s path forever nor alone. The Lord wants us to stay dependent on His grace and power—when things are going along smoothly in our lives and when they are filled with challenge. Years ago when I was on a writing assignment for an organization seeking to find jobs for blind people, it was necessary for me to shadow the social workers for meetings with blind individuals who were candidates for jobs. It was explained to me that there are two types of blindness; congenital existing from birth and adventitious which is accidental and comes later in life. Depending upon when a blind person became blind, some had the ability to know how to function in certain situations because they had some sight at one point in life or they had come to be thoroughly dependent on good training to live without bringing harm to themselves or others.

In many ways the foundation of our faith is developed from what we are given at birth as well as what gets molded into our faith from life experience. Faith can be keenly developed in times of weakness because God’s strength is our only means of support. A weak spirit and body yielded to God can be upheld with His strength. But a weak spirit and body given over to anyone or anything other than God cannot stand the test of time. There are all sorts of barriers humans use that prevent the operation of faith in God. But the Lord is of great patience to wait and to woo so those barriers disintegrate. Yielding to the Lord and the movement of the Holy Spirit are certain to yield blessings, strength, and hope for tomorrow. However faith is cultivated, via congenital or adventitious means, it is wise to extract every ounce of experience from life that makes faith grow.

The next time our pets greet us at the door after work, cuddle with us on the sofa or fly over to us and perch on our shoulder, we will pet and fuss over them as always. The gentle acts of affection we exchange with them strengthen the bond we share with them and provide warm moments of living and giving. Their unconditional love and silly ways bring us laughter and make our lives richer and our homes warmer. The little puppy in training that peered up at the pastor in the hope of receiving communion whimpered his disappointment for not having received the blessing with the others. What this young canine did not know was that to his trainers, the blind person he would eventually serve, and fellow worshipers in church, he was already blessed, and he was a blessing. God had already made it so. Each day may we embrace our pets for what they are—God’s gift of family to us.

Lord, make us instruments of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sorrow, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
The Prayer of St. Francis