воскресенье, 31 марта 2013 г.

Blind Faith

By Gayle Mansfield Irwin

For we live by faith, not by sight.
~2 Corinthians 5:7

My blind dog Sage and I walked slowly down the school's newly tiled hallway toward the boisterous classroom. The voices of seventy third-graders mingled with chairs dragged across a wooden floor. Sage paused in the doorway and cocked her head to listen. The children's whisperings grew louder, and when they saw her, their delight manifested itself in enthusiastic squeals and jumps on the hardwood floor. Sage flopped to the floor and flattened herself horizontally. I bent down and whispered to her gently as the classroom teacher calmly spoke to her students. A moment later, Sage rose again, stuck her nose in the air, took a deep sniff and moved two steps forward, her feet following her nose. Having been her companion for nearly nine years, I knew Sage's long black muzzle helped her understand her surroundings, capturing the multitude of scents filtering through this room, from the youngsters seated in chairs to the lunches in their backpacks.
I tapped my leather boot on the floor as I often did when we visited new places, helping Sage realize I was nearby and signaling her to move closer. She obliged, using her senses of hearing and smell to guide her. I had come to understand during the past nine years that a blind dog in an unfamiliar setting uses her other, more acute senses and her faith in her special person to conquer her fear of the unknown. After Sage sat next to me, I began my presentation to the students.

I often marvel at Sage when we visit classrooms or other new places. Blind for almost eight years, she hesitates only slightly when we walk into unfamiliar buildings, following the sounds of my voice and footsteps with trust. When we reach a classroom filled with strange noises, as we did on this particular day, Sage pauses in the doorway and uses her nose and ears for navigation. I keep her on a leash while in the classroom for, within a few minutes, fear of the unknown subsides, her curiosity peaks, and she explores. The strangers' voices, though somewhat loud, make her inquisitive -- she wants to meet the people in the room. She trusts me to lead her through the crowd, avoiding head-on collisions with the sturdy desks or the children's bodies. She greets each child with a wagging tail and sometimes a nuzzle to a soft cheek. We walk among the crowd as I talk about disabilities and answer questions about my dog's blindness. This routine is repeated numerous times throughout the school year.

The journey began when a genetic disease robbed Sage of her eyesight at barely two years old. Trust increased as her vision decreased. The first ride on an elevator and the first night in a hotel room showcased her apprehension of the unfamiliar, but also her faith in me and in the words she had learned. I taught her words and phrases that I thought would help keep her safe, like "no," "sit," "come," and "stop," as well as "step up" and "step down" for navigating stairways and street curbs. Nearly a decade later, Sage still walks with confidence, trusting the one who guides, cares for, and protects her.

In many ways, Sage helped build my faith. Her trust and her perseverance have provided great lessons. Her faith in me as her guardian taught me more about trusting God, and her perseverance through numerous collisions with the furniture modeled for me patience through my life's obstacles. The first time I watched my blind dog leap from the floor onto the bed not only caught me by surprise, but reminded me of the numerous times God has called me to a leap of faith. Fear can prevent us from stepping into the unknown, yet Sage courageously jumped from the solid floor into the air to land on a piece of furniture she could not see.

My blind dog constantly shows her faith in me as her caretaker. She cannot see me, yet she trusts me; can I also trust the One who cares for me yet I cannot see? Wading through uncharted waters of economic stress, stumbling amidst uncertainties in job situations, fumbling around dark caverns of loss in the death of special friends, and wavering among the new realities of my aging physical body, I need to trust that God is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-providing. Yet, I often doubt, I often question, and I often become discouraged.

Biblical writers remind us that faith is not in what we see, but in what we do not see. The author of Hebrews says, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). Sage embodies the idea of blind faith. Her sightless eyes cannot see the one who feeds her, walks her, or pets her, but she trusts me completely when I guide her down the steps, along the sidewalk, or through the hallways of a school. She trusts me to care for her well-being and her safety. And she bravely walks down a sidewalk and leaps onto a bed she cannot see.

When I allow life to discourage me through fear, suffering, loss, and other hardships, I need only to look as far as the sightless dog lying at my feet to be reminded of the importance of blind faith in the One who really loves me.

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