I was walking down the road to Damascus with my friends under the afternoon hot sun when a heavenly light from the sky suddenly blazed brighter than the scorching sun, blinded me and-. Wait, this story sounds awfully familiar, isn’t this the story of the conversion of St. Paul (Acts 9, 23, 26)? Ops, I might have mixed them up, so let me start again. I was cycling down the road of Taman Sri Muda under the morning dawn light when…
It was the usual Wednesday routine. My Primary 3 Malay Language tuition would start at 8.00am, and my house was chosen to be the venue as it was the most central of all. Another two friends would gather at my place, and what had become a ritual was a thirty minutes bicycle ride with David who lived just a row behind my terrace lots before the class started. He arrived at 7.30am sharp, and I would grab my ride parked at the corner of my front yard to join him. I would like to think that my bicycle was the Ferrari version of the two-wheeled family, but it was merely an unassuming red bike for kids with the training wheels removed. I was too cool for training wheels at that age, yet not matured enough to deserve a full-blown Raleigh bicycle according to my parents. I stood content without a choice and pride as we headed off for the spin.
David and I were just doing our rounds around the field in front of my yard as we usually would. Him having a far more superior bicycle was always going to be an advantage and more often than not I was left catching up. The competitive side of me pushed my legs to rotate the pedals even faster — what advantage I lost in the machine I substituted with grit in the muscles. The track course was a familiar one as I’ve done this lap a gazillion times, so pedaling and cruising went on auto mode as I did my chase. In fact, I could probably do this with my eyes closed. And it was probably due to this arrogance that at about a quarter of the distance from the starting line, I met with a gaping pothole ready to devour every cyclist and that day, he got his victim. My bike tumbled over, I flung out of my vehicle, knocked my head on the tarred road, and wished that I would still have my training wheels on. I was wrecked — my bike, body and braggadocio.
Within seconds of the self-inflicted accident, I came to my senses and grasped what was going on. I got up on my two feet to check if everything was ok, and noticed that David took a peek back at me to show the little concern that he had. I dusted myself, picked up my bike and continued on my cycling pursuit to the finishing line as if it was the finals of the Olympics Keirin event. I didn’t know what got into my head because the obvious and shorter route was to turn back the way I came from, rather than going on the remaining three quarters of the course. I got home safely, so I thought, and ready for tuition. Mother, who watched from a distance like every other parent would, asked if I was ok and I shrugged her off saying I was totally fine. David and I got ourselves to the dining-turned-working table, where another friend was already there, and we waited for Mr. Ridhuan to arrive.
Shortly after, Mr. Ridhuan appeared with his uber black 125cc superbike, a far cry from the little red four-turned-two-wheeled beaten-up bicycle that I had. Mr Ridhuan was not only my Malay Language tutor, he was also my 3 Siantan Class Teacher. Just like many government school teachers, giving tuition provided him a side income from kia-su students like us. As a school class teacher, he had a unique way of punishing male students, often pulling their sideburns and giving their knuckles a slight knock with a ruler — sufficient enough to cause grimace on the face and yet not constituted as physical abuse. Being the mischievous boy that I was, I found myself on the receiving end a couple of times. Of course, this was not replicated in the tuition class, although my parents probably wouldn’t blink an eye seeing how often I needed discipline attention.
As the class continued, so was the worsening of my view. I began to struggle to capture what was written in my sixty-paged, single-lined, recycled-paper covered notebook. I brought the pages closer and closer to my eyes, but the words and lines got blurrer and blurrer to my vision. Whatever Mr Ridhuan was saying and teaching was of second importance at that moment. Figuring out the loss of my sight was of gravity, and then it hit me — it was the thump on my head that I got from the fall in the embarrassing knock-out by the pothole. The thought of me being blind for the rest of my life started to cloud my mind as I feared the worst. I had no choice but to inform the stakeholders — of both the tuition class and my life.
The class was called off, and Mother rang her sister who lived across the field to ask if she could give us a lift to the doctor. We didn’t have a spare car to move around back then, and we were very much dependent on this aunt of mine. She generously chauffeured us to the clinic, about five minutes away from where we stayed. It was probably the most worrisome five minutes I ever had to go through — with my thoughts ranging from the flashbacks of the past nine years of my life (although I probably could only remember the recent five) to what my future would entail (and which sunglasses design and white cane I should get). We arrived at Klinik Mohan, and Mother had to lead me into the two-storey shoplot clinic like how a parent would hold the hand of a four-year old. I remembered not being able to see anything but just sheer brightness, causing uneasiness on my eyes and restrictions in my movements. Is this what the visually impaired experienced?
I couldn’t recall the diagnosis from the doctor, but only to take the oral medicine he was going to prescribe to me. Is that all, Doctor? Do I not need to go to the hospital? Perhaps an emergency surgery? Did you even check my head and see if I had a serious concussion? At least some magic potion to restore my sight, even slightly? We headed home soon after, with me feeling defeated, restless and uncertain of what had and could happened to me. I took the medicine the doctor gave, together with a hot cup of milo and a Julie’s chocolate love letter biscuit while staring outside the window, having the illusion that I could actually see the vast expanse of greens just outside my house. Mother told me to take a nap as advised by the doctor. I probably had missed that while drowning in my misery and worry. I went to bed, and an hour later when I opened my eyes…I could see again.
I didn’t see Jesus in the short spell of blindness that day, and I wasn’t old enough to reflect upon my life philosophically to come to believe in Him like Paul did. In fact, religion and life-death decisions were not an ultimate concern of the nine-year old me back then. Yet in hindsight, I can now relate with the blind man healed by Jesus who proclaimed (John 9:25): “I was blind, but now I see!” Being blind is a scary thing. Not being able to fully gauge the surroundings while leaving it to mere imagination from the other available senses puts one in a horror movie of his/her own, always cautious and unsure of what’s lurking around. I think being visually impaired is perhaps one of the worst loss of ability (with no disregard to the other disabilities), for one has the mental ability to comprehend what is going on around him/her, yet not the physical ability to really know for certain what is going on around him/her at the same time.
And to think of those who are spiritually blinded, how much more disarrayed they are in for what counts for eternity. They have the mortal ability to comprehend the sinful state they are in, yet not the spiritual ability to really know the depth, severity and consequential effect that sin has on them at the same time.
4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:4–6)
Knowing full well the condition they are in (which we were once in), may it spur us to continue to preach Christ and pray earnestly that the Light of the world (John 8:12) will shine His light that they may also one day proclaim:
I was blind, but now I see.