My best friend in high school was blind. I was surprised at how he navigated the world. He would listen for sounds, which most of us take for granted, and use an echo to avoid obstacles.
People say, “I see what you mean” but a blind man will say “I hear what you mean” or “I feel that also” or they may tongue in cheek say “You should see what I just saw” to get a shock reaction or a surprised response.
Intermittently, in our circle of friends, we reversed roles to see how well we could navigate without sight. By observation and practice, we partially learned what it was like to be blind. Sometimes, we challenged others unfamiliar with “blind navigation” to attempt it.
My friend Nolan had sharpened his senses to accommodate a life without vision. He had an admirable certainty about his movements and actions. He walked fast and confidently — moving from one place to another. But sometimes, the physical environment betrayed him, and confused his senses.
In large open spaces, he could not “bounce sound” at ear level. Too much surrounding activity occasionally overwhelmed his ability. In those moments, he would grab my elbow and walk beside me as I navigated for him. I avoided obstacles, gave verbal cues, descriptions and direction as needed. Occasionally, when my friend was alone, he had some spectacular disasters — like walking briskly into a column at full speed.
In Mark 10:46-52, we read about Bartimæus who sat by the roadside begging. When he heard Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he cried out “Jesus Son of David has pity on me.” Those around him tried to quiet his calls. This only made him more determined to get the Savior’s attention. Jesus asked Bartimæus what he could do for him. And Bartimæus was ready with his answer — he wanted to see. His sight was restored by the power of his faith.
In life, there are times when we miss important cues, and intermittently we are unable to piece together needed information about our environment. When we challenged our fellow classmates to “blind navigation,” we expected them to be unprepared to navigate blindly. They took their sight for granted.
In this life, we must also develop our faith by using the light and guidance given us from our Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ. They have provided guidance and light to illuminate our path. We must learn to interpret and develop our faith, a form of spiritual navigation.
Faith and obedience to gospel principals give clarity and allow growth and to gain experience. God did not leave his children without resources. We have the Holy Spirit, scripture, prayer, modern day prophets, families who love us, and other tools to serve as our guides.
Our Heavenly Father loves us and has not abandoned us. However, we are susceptible to misinterpreting cues and obstacles placed before us. We are fortunate to have the fullness of the gospel as a guide to lead us along the path to salvation. It must be applied and practiced as we develop a trust and sensitivity to our faith environment, to navigate back home to our Father in Heaven.
Infrequently, like my friend, we will experience confusion and difficulty. There will likely be spectacular mishaps, perhaps of our own making. These mishaps may be because we to missed the cues in our faith environment or couldn't discern the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Through the Atonement and the gospel, there is always hoping. There will be opportunities in this life to learn and apply faith skills and actions, as we move toward Jesus.
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When Jesus asks us "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" we, like Bartimæus, need to have a ready response. We need not, and should not, be startled by the simplicity of his question. Christ stands ready to respond, but the question for us is: how will we respond?
Mel Borup Chandler is a guest editorialist and writer for the Deseret News and ksl.com. His religious articles have been published by the More Good Foundation and translated into four languages. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.