For well-intentioned people who want to heal my son.
The other day at Costco, my daughter and I went into the restroom and left my son to wait for us at the door. He is an adorable 10 year old, he is Chinese, and he is blind. He waited patiently for us, we came out, and as we were headed on our way to shop, a young woman approached us and introduced herself. She asked our names and asked if my son was adopted.
I am always happy to talk to people about how adoption has blessed our lives, but that is not what she wanted to talk about.
After telling me what an ‘incredible person’ I am for adopting a blind child, she asked if she could pray for him “real quick.” (If you think someone is a saint for adopting, please don’t say so in front of the child-- it really makes them question their worth.) I said that our son is a blessing to us, but thank you. She said, “I’m just going to pray that Jesus would heal him from his blindness. Right now.”
I said, “God actually made him, loves him and we love him and want him exactly the way he is.” She said, “Oh, sure, but I’d just like to pray for him.” My son said, “Can she, Mom?” Fine. Then she prayed and prayed and kept saying, “Right now, Lord. Heal him right here and now.”
Finally, I said, “Yeah, we gotta go.”
This was awkward. I believe Jesus can heal people but I don’t see Charlie’s vision as something that needs to be healed. His heart, yes. His brain, perhaps. But this encounter got him confused, and me irritated. Here's why.
We (his parents) and all of his blind mentors, do not see a need for him to be healed from his blindness. It is one of his gifts. He has vision for things that we do not. He connects with people and animals in a way that we cannot. We don't want him to wish that he could see with his eyes.
The second reason is that his eyes are completely malformed. They never developed properly when he was in utero. Nothing in them is as it should be. And honestly, I don't think that was a mistake. I believe it was God's plan for him. I do not pity him because of his blindness.
For her to pray—without knowing anything about him or us, other than he was blind— that God would heal him 'right then and there' made me feel like I was in a magic show that was bound to fail. It felt very awkward, and embarrassing.
Thirdly, we were approached in a way that felt invasive and self promoting, not glorifying to God.
If she had said, "I see you have an adopted son. What a beautiful family you have! Can I pray for you? Is there anything specific that you need prayer for?" If she had done that, I would have thanked her.
"YES! You can pray for his fear. You can pray for his anxiety. You can pray that he would eat. That his nightmares would go away. You can pray that our family would have patience with him when he acts like a 5 year old. You can pray that this school year would be better than the last. You can pray that people would be more accepting of him and not only see his blindness. YES! Thank you so much for asking!"
And at that point, I'm sure I'd be hugging her and crying because of her generous thought and simple act.
However, that is not what she said. My daughter and I felt very uncomfortable because we felt like she was stalking us and looking for something she could "do" to tell others about. She was waiting for us as soon as we came out of the bathroom.
Later, I asked my daughter what she thought about it and she said it made her feel really weird. And she said that she felt bad for her brother because it made him feel like something (else) is wrong with him. And then she said, "What if we weren't Christians? That whole situation would have been even worse." And much more insulting.
This girl was young (mid-twenties), and I probably should have taken more time to explain all of this to her, I was just a bit shaken and unprepared. But since then, I've realized I have a lot to say, and I need to say it!
We have many friends with physical disabilities and/or children with disabilities. Most of them want to be seen and accepted the way they are, even more than they want to be fixed or healed. When someone approaches them with the intent to change them, it is a reminder that that is what they see when they look at them-- either what they are missing or what they think they need.
If a person was born without an arm, would you approach them and pray that the arm would grow out of their shoulder? I doubt it.
The blind community is very misunderstood. People with vision feel like blind people are missing out, and they pity them. But most blind adults that I know would not want their vision restored. They are content and happy with themselves and they "see" the world in a different way than we do. Sometimes better.
Here is a wonderful message by a friend of ours: Greg's Sermon on Blindness. Greg was my daughter’s Braille teacher. He is a wonderful human who happens to be blind. He knows that his blindness is used by God every day and he is thankful for it. If not for him and his influence on our lives, I don't know that we would have been open to adopting a blind child!
As parents, we pray that God would be glorified in our son’s life because of his blindness. He will reach people that we won't. He inspires people everyday. God is using him daily in spite of his blindness, and we are thankful for that. That is why it is was so surprising and jarring when a complete stranger wanted to pray that away.
We all have heart issues. We all have ugly sin inside, but people can't see that. However, when physical deformities or flaws are seen in people, someone often wants to offer to pray that they would be corrected. I think that is very risky and often insulting. Let's be more concerned with people's hearts than their bodies.
My advice to you, if you feel led to pray for a stranger in public, is to approach them with humility. Let them know you would like to pray for them, and ask if there something they need prayer for. If this young woman had done that, I assure you the last thing on my list would've been my son's blindness.