For the last ten years Jesus has joined me on my morning walk. Not the Jesus I imagine you’re thinking of, no it’s Jesus Jameson, my dog. In the last six months, his age has really started to show and he became less willing to walk with me. And then a few months ago, he began to lose his eyesight. The doctor said he had glaucoma and that he was going blind. We tried the eye drop routine but that didn’t work. Not only was he blind, the doctor said the pressure in eyes was so bad he was suffering from what amounted to a 24/7 migraine. The doctor recommended that we have his eyes removed. She said he would find a “new normal.” I wondered what that might mean being Jack Russell Terriers are more than a bit psychotic. After we got over the initial shock of the idea, we decided to follow the doctor’s recommendation. That was two months ago and now Jesus seems to be fine, except for the fact that he is blind. He used to be very active, now he walks around very slow and deliberate. He feels his way around the house with his nose, and every once in awhile he does run head on into something. But, he does seem to be learning how to walk in the dark. I have come to realize I’m watching my own future play out in the life of my dog.
Saint Francis of Assisi had something to say about walking in the dark. As a young man Francis had a life-changing dream that led him to begin following Jesus’ way of living. To get away from the noise of the world he went to live in cave outside Assisi. In the darkness of the cave he began to find the light within himself. In darkness and the quiet of the cave he began to hear the words of Jesus. In the darkness, Francis learned how to walk in the dark.
Francis lived most of his life out-of-doors, walking from town to town, preaching the message of charity and the virtues of poverty. Francis wasn’t a sturdy man and his hard life began to take a toll on him. A year before he died at the age of forty-four, he began to lose his eyesight. Whatever was wrong with his eyes caused him a great deal of pain, so much so that it also drove him into a deep depression. He was in such great pain that his doctor decided that the only way to relieve his pain was to cauterize his eyes. Francis agreed and prayed for strength during the ordeal. As horrible as it is to thing about such a thing, the treatment worked and Francis was relieved of the pain. Francis lived his life as if he could see in the dark.
In many ways, these stories are frightening, yet, at the same time, these stories can be encouraging to us. These stories are about the disabilities we all encounter in our lives, the disabilities, real of metaphoric, of being blind, lame, mute, deaf, our poverty of mind, body, soul, or spirit. The question is how can we live with these disabilities—accepting that we may not be healed from them.
Francis could walk in the dark, he said, because the light of Christ went before him. Blind and disabled, Francis lived his life emulating Jesus. Like Jesus, who suffered in life and even after the resurrection still bore the scars suffered on the cross. His hands, his feet, his side, still bore the wounds of crucifixion. Through Jesus’ death on the Cross, God is not only empathetic towards our suffering and disabilities, but God has suffered the pain of our cross. God became the disabled God.
Jesus brings us hope, not in being spared from our disabilities, nor healed from our pain, but instead, Jesus brings us the hope that the disabled God is with us as we have to learn how to make our way in the dark.