After I graduated from college with my bachelor’s degree, I had the rewarding opportunity to work with the Youth Conservation Corp, a program to meet the needs of teens in a summer camp situation.
Along with building bridges, trails, amphitheaters and caring for the forest, the teens went on overnight hikes and field trips. I loved the forest and was delighted to participate with the youth in the programs as one of the councilors. Each councilor was in charge of developing lessons and experiences that would teach the youth about themselves and their relationship to the forest. One councilor taught a lesson one morning that I will never forget. I think of it often and remember the feelings I had.
We loaded 15 or 20 teens in vans and drove to a designated spot in the forest. We unloaded in a wooded area where the trees were close together. The sunlight sifted through the trees, leaving pools of light on the ground between the towering Ponderosas. The aroma of pine needles and fresh pine sifted through the air. The birds twittered and danced from branch to branch as I waited for the councilor to give us instructions. She stepped from the van with a pile of white cloth.
She shook out a piece, and said, “I am going to blindfold you.” This would be an adventure! Twenty blindfolded kids groping around the forest bumping into trees and tripping over logs! She smiled at my concern and said, “I am going to take the councilors first. Yevet, you come with me. Susan has done this before; she will help me with David. Marsha, you stay with the crew!”
After blindfolding me, she led me with an arm over my shoulder into the forest. She prompted me when we came to a log or a dip in the road. I became acutely aware of my dependence on the young woman and how completely I had to trust that she knew the trail and what she was doing. I could feel my surroundings change. I knew we had left the trees because a soft breeze started to blow in my face. I didn’t hear the twitter of birds, and I wondered where we were going.
“Yevet, I am going to sit you down. Whatever you do, don’t move!”
I groped my way as I sat down on a huge boulder. The wind was blowing freely, and I was content to be obedient. I could hear the teens in the distance laughing and talking. I knew we hadn’t come far, but I felt like I was in the middle of an open field sitting on a rock.
After a few minutes the councilor said, “Yevet, learn all you can with just your ears. Listen, and feel, but don’t move.” I smelled the pines, but the aroma was distant. I felt the coolness of the rock beneath me and touched the roughness. I knew by the texture that it was limestone that is so common in northern Arizona. I was tempted to reach down and touch the earth, but I remembered that my councilor had told me to sit still.
“Yevet, you may take off the blindfold,” she finally said.
I reached up and pulled the blind from my face. I caught my breath. I was perched on a rock at the edge of the Mogollon Rim, a canyon that stretches for miles! The trees below seemed blue at the bottom of the canyon. If I had moved, I would have fallen hundreds of feet into the trees at the bottom of the canyon. I had thought my councilor left me alone, but she was right there behind me with her hands stretched out, ready to stop me if I tried to move.
I sat there for a long time enjoying the panorama of beauty, thinking about the experience. I thought about the wonderful creations God has given us, including the canyon, the trees, the birds, the wind, the sky and the rocks. I thought about how wonderful it is to be able to see. Our eyes are magnificent blessings! I thought about how we can learn many things from our other senses, but vision makes it all worth it.
It wasn’t until today, as I remembered that experience, that I realized there is another kind of vision that makes everything come together. So often we wander through life in spiritual blindness. We see with our physical eyes, but we don’t see spiritual things. Often blind leaders, those who have no spiritual clue, lead us. We sit on precipices of danger and don’t know it because we are spiritually blind.
Jesus, speaking of the Pharisees, said, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14).
We have leaders in the media, in our schools, in our government and in our homes that are spiritually blind. They never think of where the trail may lead. They don’t consider the people who are depending on their leadership to bring them to safety. They are out there “doing their own thing, marching to their own drummer.” They are abandoning tried-and-true traditions that have always brought happiness for new morality, new definitions of the family and free expression. They don’t know the end of the trail. They are wearing blindfolds and leading blindfolded followers down the primrose path that will lead to destruction. What will they do when they set their follower on the edge of a cliff and walk away? Will they even get to the edge of the cliff before disaster strikes?
I think how diligently my husband and I teach our children about the perils of pornography, but they go to school with peers who carry cell phones with access to everything that is on the Internet. Peers say, “Hey this is cool, come and watch this!” Our children are sucked into a trap that will lead them to a hard-core addiction that will ruin any chance of a magical relationship with a future spouse. There will always be images of someone else or many someone else’s. There will never be only “one.” Or they will find themselves freefalling into a canyon where the trees will leave eternal scars because the “blind are leading the blind.”
What we need is more bridge builders, people who like my councilor stand ready to keep everyone’s child from falling into the canyon. I love this poem by Will Allen Dromgoole because it shows spiritual vision at its finest.
The Bridge Builder
An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide—
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?
”The builder lifted his old gray head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.
Will Allen Dromgoole
There is only one way to take off the blindfold to see the canyons below – prayer and building a relationship with Jesus Christ. This scripture in Isaiah 42:16 says it all:
“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”
I can see Jesus standing behind me with His arms stretched out making sure that I don’t move from the rock that is perched at the edge of the canyon. I wish all could be enfolded in His arms of mercy, for I know He makes no promises He will not keep. PD