Calvin can’t see his baby pictures, but it doesn’t keep us from exclaiming over them and sharing every detail with him. We want him to know his story, to know his family, and to have an understanding of why he experiences life the way he does. We want to help him have a true awareness of his identity, which fills him with purpose, belonging, and hope. On a much grander scale, God reveals our reality and identity in the Bible, giving the backstory of who we are and to whom we belong. The Scriptures reveal the hidden motivations of our hearts, the doubts that plague us, and the power of Christ to save us. They are words that not only accurately reveal our reality but, by the Spirit’s power, change our reality, moving us from blindness to sight, despair to hope, and death to life as we believe in His Word.
Words not only provide context for Calvin to understand his reality but also provide him with the ability to reorient himself to his changing surroundings. As we run hot water for a shower, stand by him through a medical procedure, or head to Grandma and Grandpa’s, we are constantly communicating so he can make sense of what’s happening. Sometimes we forget, and he’s taken off guard and uncertain. Recently at one of his siblings’ music concerts, the trumpets startled him so much that we had to take him in our arms and speak to him reassuringly until he calmed down. So, too, when circumstances startle us, challenge our perceptions, and test our faith in God, we are called to remember His words. As we allow the Word of God to be our starting point for understanding who we are and what our experiences mean, our perspective changes as we rely on His words more than our perception. We live our lives actively, but we make sense of them as we look at them in the light of Scripture. And as we believe the unseen realities of grace, hope transforms us as we wrestle with present seen realities.
The most personal dynamic of words is when we use them relationally, communicating our presence and love. During a difficult feeding tube change, my husband, Darryl, and I worked together, constantly assuring him: “We’re here. Mom and Dad are right here with you.” Calvin loves when the other kids cheer him on or hop into his bed to read him a book. Words bring relationship, comfort, and confidence. It took me a long time to realize the power of God’s Word to do the same for me. “Where is God?” I’d cry. We’re people who want reassurances that are physical, circumstantial, and immediate. But God often expands our awareness of His presence and love through faltering faith and trust in His Word through waiting seasons. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). His words are not only true; they are personal and change the course of our lives.
Deep confidence in God does not come from understanding or controlling everything around us but from hearing the Shepherd’s words. And as He speaks into our confused minds and dark nights, we find that He is with us and His words bring comfort and confidence. When the situation worsens, He reminds us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isa. 43:2). And when there seems to be no end in sight, “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).
Faith Becomes Sight
There are certain moments when Calvin can catch a glimpse of us. He has cortical visual impairments, meaning that there is nothing wrong with his actual eyes, but his loss of sight is from his brain’s inability to perceive objects. This means there are rare occasions that he can get a glimpse of something, a shadow or a bright light, in his peripheral vision. Once as I was moving behind him, I saw him turn his head quickly back. I walked noiselessly back and forth several times—each time my shadow blocked the sunlight, his head would jerk. He caught a glimpse of me, but it was just a shadow. I cannot imagine what it will be like to know Calvin restored, to be able to see my face, not just hear my words. It brings a joy that I cannot find words for.
This makes me reflect on how much the Lord longs for our final restoration, when our faith will be replaced with sight. Now we “see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12). The Bible is an incredible gift, bringing light to our reality, reorienting us, and bringing us into relationship with God, but one day we will no longer need it. Instead of having faith in His words, we will actually be in the presence of the Living Word. We will no longer catch rare glimpses of Him but will be saturated with His presence. The Shepherd’s voice, familiar to us from following Him through the dark nights, will be accompanied by His physical presence, as He will wipe every tear from our eyes: “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17).