"You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light."
-2 Samuel 22:29
This is the season when we celebrate light coming into the world.
I'd just as soon not.
I'm not completely unregenerate. I understand photosynthesis and seasonal affective disorder and all manner of the benefits, nay, the necessities of light. It's just that it is personally and literally painful.
And I have some understanding of theological metaphor, but I find myself looking for loopholes. I'm comforted when Revelation says there's no sun in the New Jerusalem and trust the Lamb that its light is not fluorescent.
Nevertheless, photophobia is not a psychological term. It refers to what my eyes do because my irises don't block light effectively, thus leaving my pupils flummoxed at the effort to regulate what comes into my eyes.
I wish for the sake of poetry that this was a Christmas photo story. It isn't though. It was the need of a passport photo that took us out of the November evening darkness and into our local (fluorescently lit) AAA office. The harried photographer looked through the camera at my five-year-old and said, "You have to get him to open his eyes."
"Yes, he doesn't like the flash," I replied.
"The light won't hurt you," she chirped in his direction.
"Yes it will, of course, but just for a moment," I countered. (And when he asked what might help, I mentioned the possibility of ice cream in the near future.)
The photographer gave me the look. I recognized it immediately and responded with my well-practiced explanation. She came back with stock response Number Three, "You guys can't be albino. Your eyes aren't pink." Oh, well. Somehow, though, in this case it was an opportunity for dialogue.
One of the gifts of a visible disability (although it does not feel like a gift every single day, especially when the same conversation gets played over and over) is the opportunity to educate in the truest, most personal sense — to provide a slightly different slant on what might at first have seemed self-evident.
Our photographer was able to devise a game for my son. She told him to keep his eyes closed until she said "Open." Then she worked fast. She also asked whether sunglasses might help (this despite the fact it was dark outside and she was taking passport photos). Some opportunities work better than others, but she was not without willingness to have her perceptions broadened a bit.
That, of course, is what metaphor does.
Part of the theological reference of disability is that even our most cherished metaphors simply do not work for some. None work for everyone. We all have our distortions. That is what it is to live in a fallen world. Perhaps the center of our disability, of our fallenness, is reflected in the way we mangle metaphor, literalizing, or trivializing it. But it is just our limitation that calls us to engage, to wrestle, to dive into, or to hold away metaphor and experience it anew.
And thereby comes light — light that I can handle just fine. Light that shines in the darkness which cannot overcome it.