Two prisoners have been locked away in this pitch-black underground bunker, a sort of black hole of Calcutta. They have endured weeks of complete and utter darkness. Suddenly, inmate #1 cries, “Look! A light! There’s a light breaking through!” His comrade twists left and right, shouting “Where? Where? I don’t see anything!”
Inmate #1 replies, “It’s directly overhead! Look up! It’s brilliant!” Once again, the second prisoner sees nothing. “What light? Where?” Finally, after a few minutes, the men begin to argue. Inmate #1 insists the light is clearly visible directly overhead. His cellmate can only hurl insults and dismiss the man as deranged or psychotic. Assuming both men are completely honest, how can this be explained?
The conundrum has two possible solutions. It could be that Inmate #1 has finally lost his mind. After weeks of isolation, he is experiencing a hallucination. But there is another logical possibility: the second prisoner is blind.
This is precisely how God explains the chasm of darkness between the children of light and our neighbors who are convinced we’re living in Fantasy Land. “In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
There is more here than a metaphor. For example, have you seen that classic video that asks you to count how many times people dressed in white shirts pass a basketball around? Six young people toss two basketballs between themselves. And if you’re very focused, you will count fifteen passes between the players in white t-shirts. After 30 seconds you’re asked how many passes you observed. Then there’s a second question: “Did you see the gorilla?” What? What gorilla? When you review the video once again, you see an adult in a black gorilla suit walk slowly across the stage directly through the players, actually pausing in the center to pound his chest! Show the video to a few friends and you’ll confirm that people focused on the balls invariably miss the gorilla completely! Watch the video.
You don’t have to be physically blind to miss surprising and unusual events occurring all around you. You only need to be focused on something more routine and less significant.
There are intelligent, experienced people in your office or classroom whose eyes and affections are honed in on the familiar: the hottest people in the room, the minutes left before lunch, the irritating buffoon in the adjacent cubicle, video games on their iPhones. That’s all they expect, so it’s all they see. Hence, they never detect the evidence of the invisible kingdom, the wonders of the human body or the world where we live, or the design so evident in the lives of other people. They are limited only by a lack of curiosity and their selective attention.
Here’s how C.S. Lewis characterized that spiritual handicap: “We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
So I never get impatient with the atheists who write angry books or the celebrities who roll their eyes and suggest people who hear from God are mentally ill. They can’t help it. They’ve been blinded. I keep praying that God will get their attention and their eyes can finally be opened. We must be humble and kind.
And lift up the Cross!