|Anna and the Blind Tobit, Rembrandt (ca. 1630)|
To be sure, the rest of the story isn’t quite so comical. Tobit contracts an eye disease and goes blind, his wife has to go to work weaving cloth to support him, and his whole life seems to fall apart. “Lord, command that I be released from such anguish; let me go to my everlasting abode,” he prays. “For it is better for me to die than to endure so much misery in life” (3.6).
What follows is pretty complicated—there’s an archangel and a demon, a marriage and several murders, a journey, a debt repaid, and recovered vision. Along the way, Tobit also recovers his fundamental trust in God—despite the disappointments and adversity—and his faithfulness is rewarded abundantly. In a Job-like way, Tobit’s story calls us to live lives abandoned to the Lord, come what may. God is God; we’re not. We can’t possibly see things the way He sees them, so no matter the difficulty or setback, we’re reminded to keep banking on Him and hoping in His love. “Blessed be God who lives forever,” Tobit prays after his reversal of fortune. “For he afflicts and shows mercy, casts down to the depths of Hades, brings up from the great abyss” (13.2).
|The Healing of Tobit, Bernardo Strozzi (ca. 1625)|
What’s particularly striking about Raphael’s actions, however, and what sets them apart from God’s restorative actions in the Book of Job, is the way Tobit’s author weaved them together in the narrative with the very travails that beset all the key players in the first place. Bird droppings and blindness for instance? All part of God’s plan to match up Tobit’s son, Tobias, with Sarah of Media. And when a fish attacks Tobias on his way to Media? It’s a propitious opportunity for Tobias to acquire the very balm that will heal his father’s sight.
|Raphael Taking Leave of the Tobit Family, Rembrandt (1637)|
Providence seems to work that way often. We see obstacles; God sees opportunities. And often our stubbornness is such that He is forced to resort to those maddening obstacles to divert us from our ruts of pettiness and sloth and greed and pride.
Forced? No, I suppose not. We are speaking of God, after all. Yet it does seem to be the way He prefers to do things though—working through circumstances, orchestrating events, prompting and upsetting, prodding and tripping. We're so blind to the obvious ways we're called to live that sometimes He has to, well, make us blind in order to make us see.
All the same, let's be clear: Sometimes bird poop in the eye is just bird poop in the eye. Still, next time it happens, wipe it off, and glance around. It just might be a sign that an angel is nearby and God is up to something.