A Christian’s View of Life column with David Butterfield: What are your blind spots in life?
In 1848 a book of Hymns for Little Children was published. They were written by a 30-year-old Irish woman called Cecil Frances Alexander. Of the 24 hymns, three are still sung today.
We can tell that Mrs Alexander was a storyteller from the opening lines: “Once, in royal David’s city” and “There is a green hill far away”.
The other hymn that has endured is, “All things bright and beautiful”.
However, it originally included a verse that we no longer sing today. It is this:
The rich man in his castle,
the poor man at his gate,
God made them high or lowly,
and ordered their estate.
This verse was dropped from hymn books in the mid-20th century because it implied that it is God’s will for some people to be poor and others rich.
Yet, one clear theme running through the whole of the Bible is the challenge to do all we can to lift poor people out of their poverty and not accept it as the norm!
So why didn’t Mrs Alexander see this when she wrote the hymn?
She was certainly a woman who knew her Bible.
I think it was because she was a child of her time and viewed her world from the culture in which she was immersed all those years ago.
It was a blind spot.
In 1980, when the Church of England published a new book of church services in modern English, I recall that the creed retained the line from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer: “Who for us men and our salvation”.
Of course, by “men”, it meant all people – men and women. But things were changing in our culture with regard to such language and, not long afterwards, a young woman in my congregation pointed out to me how this line was inappropriate.
I had never seen this before.
My first reaction was defensive as I pointed out that the word “men” included “men and women”.
However, as I reflected on it, I realised that she was right, it wasn’t appropriate.
Twenty years later the Church of England published another service book in which the line was changed to “who for us and our salvation”. So why didn’t those who compiled the 1980 book see it?
Again, I think it is because they were immersed in the culture of their time.
It was a blind spot.
Yet, when our blind spots have been revealed to us, it’s easy to look back and think: “Why on earth didn’t I see it?”.
This is particularly so when the truths that we didn’t see were clearly there in the Scriptures all the time.
There’s a wonderful line in a prayer of St Paul which runs as follows: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.”
His prayer request was that the recipients of his letter would be given a glimpse of how wonderful the future will be in the kingdom of heaven.
So why is it that some people’s eyes are enlightened but other people’s are not?
It is so easy to have blind spots in many different areas of life.
This is probably because of our upbringing, our assumptions, and being part of the culture of our day.
If the examples of blind spots I have referred to are so glaringly obvious to us now but were not to people of earlier times, I wonder, in our lives today, what are my blind spots, and what are yours?