Thomas Sleete on blind faith for Salt & Iron: Seasoned Writing

Walking Trees as a Lesson in Faith

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.

C. S. Lewis

Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Jesus performed one of his most interesting miracles on the blind man outside Bethsaida. Mark 8: 22–25 tells how friends of a blind man took him to Jesus so that he would cure him. Jesus led the man out of the town so that the crowds would not provide a distraction. First using spit, Jesus asked what the man could see. He replied, “I see men as trees walking.” Immediately, Jesus touched his eyes, and the man could then see clearly.

Having read this, I had questions. Did Jesus misfire on his first attempt? What kind of trees did the man perceive? Were they local trees like pine, cypress, or olive? Why was this miracle put into Scripture in the first place? Why did Jesus deviate from his usual approach to healing (commanding it be accomplished) and instead choose to heal with touch?

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his masterful book Spiritual Depression, provides sound teaching on this event. Jones proposes that many of Jesus’s miracles are parables. Thus, they are lessons from which we can and must learn. There is a lesson in the miracle that we can apply to some who are deconstructing their faith and to others who are leaving the faith outright. 

The blind man, though touched by Jesus, didn’t get the full healing. One could compare this to those who have a conversion experience and its joyful emotion, but don’t experience the follow-up, study, or engagement that are necessary to increase in faith. They may have had no means to achieve growth in or intensification of their faith.

Skiing Lessons

I liken this to getting snow skiing lessons. The exhilaration of gliding down the slope on a beautifully crisp winter day and coasting to the end of the run is wonderful. What if the instructor told the novice that he now knows how to ski, so go forth and enjoy the sport? What about the steeper slopes, even dreaded black diamonds? How is the learner supposed to navigate those?

The same can be said for new believers. If there is no instruction, counseling, support, or help provided in their newfound walk in the faith, their foundation is shaky at best. We can read this as an indictment of some pastors, small groups, traveling evangelists, or churches not grounded in Scripture but only concerned with the happiness and wealth of their members. New believers are out there on their own. The initial emotional experience will only carry them so far.

Jones said, “…the most comfortable type of faith is always vague religion.” Without growth and understanding, this type of faith is built upon a bedrock of sand. It is easily cast away. “They seem to know enough about Christianity to spoil their enjoyment of the world, and yet do not know enough to feel happy about themselves,” Jones wrote. “They see yet they do not see.”

This condition often follows when evangelists portray Christianity as the new believer having achieved, on his own, immediate aptness of faith. They may also present it as an absolute lesson and demand that the believer follow the rules of the “true church.” These errant beliefs and their proponents are like the negligent ski instructor. They provide rudimentary skills, but that does not suffice for enjoyment and development in the sport.

A Clarion Call

Just like the novice skier, new Christians, along with those who are doubting their faith, need to be helped along. They must know that it is normal to not see or experience Christ clearly after the initial steps are taken. As with the blind man on his way to complete healing, perceptions may be foggy, like looking through a car’s tinted windows at night. Only light will bring clarity.

Fellow believers and pastors must provide that light. They must listen to doubts and confusion without a judgmental attitude. Guidance is needed, not condemnation. They should not see the questioning of formerly unquestioned beliefs as proof of sinful behavior, but as a clarion call to other believers to support them. Believers must prayerfully let the Lord guide them in discussion, counseling, and conversation. Anyone deconstructing his beliefs is searching. Each doubter might be on the precipice of being lost, and each unsatisfied believer needs the joy abundant in a relationship with Christ.

Many deconstruct their faith due to a lack of lucidity, vision, and depth of belief, or simply because of the feeling that their faith has failed them and those around them. They, too, would benefit from Christian brothers and sisters with listening hearts who do not attack or judge, but respond when asked. They can provide what they’ve learned from the study of Scripture and from their own faith experience. So many in today’s culture can only perceive the figurative trees walking; they have not found the means to clarify their sight and deepen their belief.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said of this miracle of the blind man’s healing, “…it is a picture of the darkened soul gradually illuminated by the Holy Ghost, and brought by Jesus Christ into the clear light of his kingdom.” Those who have utterly submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ must attempt to provide some of that elucidation.

Author: Thomas F. Sleete

Thomas F. Sleete is a retired American History teacher and educational consultant with over 44 years of experience. That from which he derives the most enjoyment in this world is his interaction with, and love for, his grandchildren. The Lord guided and comforted him through the loss of his wife, and one way he seeks to glorify the name of Jesus at every opportunity is through his writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *