Was it just going to be another day at this lonely corner, trying to avoid the authorities and hoping to receive enough sympathy to fill my stomach for the next few hours?
These were the thoughts I would have every day, although I now wonder why I even bothered thinking about the same thing. It had been this way for years ever since my parents had passed away one after the other, leaving me to fend for myself.
I also used to wonder if life would have been easier if I had not been born with a visual impairment. And because my family was so poor, we could not afford medical treatment or therapy to ease me into daily life. In the end, for most of my childhood, I stayed home with my mother and help her with simple chores.
I never learnt what caused my blindness, but I’d heard passing remarks from the people at the market that my parents must have done something bad in their younger days. This made me feel sad – my parents were the best people I knew. They were not very educated, but they worked hard and loved me very much.
My mother used to tell me: Better to be born without sight than without a good heart – that is all you really need.
When they passed away and I realised I had no choice but to beg in the streets when the neighbours could no longer help me – we had no close relatives either – it was the lowest point of my life.
Every morning I would make my way down to a corner of a bustling part of my neighbourhood. If I was lucky, someone would be generous towards me and give me a few dollars. Sometimes, people even offered to buy me some food, maybe even sit and eat with me.
“Please help me.”
“Have some pity for the blind.”
I honestly believed then that this would be the rest of my life. Until that day.
Something had been going on lately. Something out of the ordinary. I never keep in touch with the news, but even sitting at my usual corner, I’d been overhearing several similar accounts of a blind man who saw again.
I never dared to allow myself to imagine what it would be like to see, but I couldn’t help but think: How was this possible? Could it happen for me?
I’d no longer be bound to these streets, no longer dependent on others’ pity on me. I’d be free. This thought scared me, because hope is a dangerous emotion.
But hearing that it could even happen for someone else awakened a curious faith in this blind man, a man in need of nothing less than a miracle.
As the days went on, more people – men, women and even their children – whispered and talked about this man who had healing powers. I knew it was the same mysterious man who’d brought back the sight of the blind.
“I heard that people asked him to have mercy on them … That’s how they got his attention.”
“He just asked if they believed that he was able to heal them – and then he did!”
Just believe? I couldn’t wrap my head around this. Who was this man and where could I find him? How long was he going to be in town? But I was also afraid – what if I did not have enough faith, what if I’d be the first one who couldn’t be healed?
Since young, my mother had told me not to believe in sorcerers or those who practised divination. Was this man one of them? But I’d suffered for so long in poverty and disability, I was sure she’d have understood why hope started to grow in my heart that I might meet him one day and be cured.
I did try to put all thoughts of being healed out of my mind, but the urgency that had been stirring inside took the better of me, and I found myself asking one of the strangers who stopped to talk more about this man who could heal.
She told me that the authorities were on alert because many people turned up to hear him speak – but that he was also of royal blood! I was scared to hear this but somehow comforted too. It couldn’t be so bad if this man had descended from a king, right?
From that day, I made up my mind that if he ever came my way – if God would allow our paths to cross – I would take my chances. Perhaps faith was growing in me by then.
I wanted to see.
A week passed, then two, but my resolve didn’t waver.
And then the fateful day finally came.
I began to hear his name chanted in the streets: “Jesus! It’s Jesus!” A mix of fear and courage arose in my heart all at once. This was my only chance!
So I began to shout, “Son of David! Son of David!”
I yelled like a man who had no shame. If this man was who they said he was – the Messiah, the Chosen One – he wouldn’t look at me like those who believed my blindness was caused by sin in my family.
The crowd that was with him was deafening, I couldn’t tell where he was in the midst of them – some even told me to be quiet – but I wasn’t about to just let him pass me by.
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
All of a sudden, I heard the movement around me stop. Then I heard someone call my name, saying, “It’s your lucky day, Bartimaeus! He’s calling you! Get up!”
Jesus had heard me. He had stopped for me and was calling for me!
I threw off my cloak and got on my feet, heart pounding, legs trembling. Kinds hands guided me to where he stood waiting. Then I heard him speak.
“What do you want me to do for you?” the Son of David asked.
I felt the power in his words coursing through me, as though the question was already an answer. Was this how the others felt when they heard Jesus call out to them?
And before I could comprehend that moment, faith left my mouth: “Teacher, I want to see.”
At first he didn’t say anything in response, but I could somehow feel his gentle smile though my world remained dark. Then, these simple words. “Go, your faith has healed you.”
A bright light exploded all around me.
Colours, movement, faces … Everywhere. My heart was leaping inside my chest and tears were flowing down my dust-caked cheeks. For years I’d walked in a world of sightless sound and form I could only feel with my hands. Now everything I knew was bathed in a new light; this unfamiliar place I’d always called home.
My eyes rested on the one who had healed me – my Messiah, my Saviour. This man who stood before me with compassion in his eyes. In his presence I suddenly realised the depth of the blindness he had set me free from – a blindness that reached into the crevices of my soul.
I was a man in need of more mercy than I could ever comprehend.
“Lord, I will follow you all the days of my life,” I said as I wept.
And true to my word, that’s what I’ve done ever since.
This is an adapted account of blind Bartimaeus who receives his sight, taken from Mark 10:46-52.