Thursday, August 07, 2014

Thankful Thursday - Keeping it Real

Today I am grateful for the gift of sight.

It wasn't long after I had my daughter that I realized I couldn't see as well as I used to. Watching television, reading the song lyrics on the screen at church, going to the movies and driving at night forced me to squint. The next time I went to the eye doctor, I was prescribed a pair of glasses. I didn't know how much I had been missing until I began to wear those visual enhancers. I didn't need them for reading, but I did require them for seeing things at a distance. I once was blind, but now I see much better.

Earlier this year, I went back for my annual eye exam. I knew I needed to continue wearing glasses for distance viewing, but I continued to take them off when I read or sew or do other things within arm's length. What I wasn't prepared for was the need to upgrade to bifocals. Progressive lenses, they are called. Graduated viewing range from the top to the bottom of the lens. I am getting old!

I remember seeing my parents' glasses with their miniature windows in the center/bottom half of their lenses. A little blurry box that allowed them to focus on small print and hand-held tasks. I remember thinking, "I will never wear glasses that look like that." Forturnately for me, the science and technology have changed - so now I get to wear "progressive lenses" without the telltale magnifying box embedded in them. I'm probably as blind as either of my parents, but with much cuter frames... I once was blind, but now I see better still.

Two weeks ago, on the first full day of our week in Hilton Head, my husband and daughter waded out into the ocean and rode a few waves in towards the shore. With his back to the incoming tide, he didn't see the water as it rolled in - and one large wave washed his glasses off his face and into the churning water. Just like that, gone.

When he walked back to our chairs, all he said was, "I needed new glasses anyway."
I said, "Tell me you're kidding."
Nope, not kidding. They were gone.

An hour's drive later, we were in Savannah, Georgia, at the closest Lenscrafters store that was open on a Sunday afternoon. He underwent a long overdue eye exam and was fitted with new glasses. We had an hour to waste before they would be ready so we drove into downtown Savannah and had a lovely lunch at a restaurant by the river.

And when I say, "we drove," I mean, I drove. Somebody couldn't see much beyond the end of his extended arm. I wanted to be on the beach, reading my most excellent novel, but I wasn't. I wanted to be sipping ice water and eating chilled grapes by the water, but I wasn't. I was not a happy vacationer.

During the afternoon and evening of that day, Steve repeatedly expressed how remorseful he felt about inconveniencing us that way. He apologized. He berated himself for not taking his glasses off before going into the water. He asked for forgiveness. Externally, I forgave him and told him not to worry about it. Stuff happens. Mistakes happen. Life happens. Internally, I was seething. I'm sure my displeasure was palpable. I was not showing my happy and grateful side that afternoon.

Later that day, I complained about what happened to a friend via text. She challenged me - "There must be some symbolism in there somewhere." That's one of the reasons why I love Lisa so much - she always gives me excellent things to ponder.

The words to that old, old hymn came to me almost immediately.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I'm found,
was blind but now I see.

I wondered: What am I supposed to see now because of this situation?

How many times have I turned my back on the reality of my life, been knocked down by unexpected challenges, and subsequently rendered blind by my refusal to face the truth about myself or my life?

Am I willing to admit when I notice blind spots in my life? Am I able to listen and take advice from friends and others who inform me of my blind spots or do I immediately get defensive and make excuses for my faults and failures?

Am I willing to undergo metaphorical "eye exams" and be given results? Am I willing to listen and receive comments like these? "Your vision is off. Your perception is getting worse. You need to see more clearly. You need to change the way you do things and see things and look at the world around you."

Which lenses, which ways of seeing the world do I need to let go of, need to allow to be washed away and replaced? The old ways of seeing don't serve me well indefinitely. Perhaps it is time to rethink the way I look at my marriage, at parenting, at my friendships, at my walk of faith, at my involvement in church, and at my community service.

Am I brave enough to apologize when I've messed up and ask for forgiveness? Am I humble enough to ask repeatedly when it is clear that the offended party isn't convinced of my sincerity?

As we waited for the final adjustment of his new glasses, I realized that, even though I was angry about having to leave the beach that day, we were blessed to be able to get new glasses without having to wait for the next paycheck to come in or having to put it on a credit card that wouldn't get paid off for years. We are blessed to be able to work together to resolve that kind of situation together and quickly.

We are blessed to be in a marriage where such mistakes are not held against one another. We don't bring up past wrongs and make each other feel bad about mistakes made. (Yes, I'm writing about this publicly, but I asked his permission to tell the story. He said it was fine with him. And once again he apologized for having lost his glasses that day...)

Losing a pair of glasses is inconvenient. When held up and looked at against the backdrop of all that is happening in the world, losing a pair of glasses is an extremely minor inconvenience. Even within the context of our vacation, that was an extremely minor inconvenience - fortunately it was the worst thing that happened all week. I am enormously grateful for that.

Inconveniences, major inconveniences happen to all of us and to those we love -
and also to those we don't love and don't know.
Kanswer happens.
Recurrence happens.
Bipolar disorder happens.
Addiction happens.
Disappointment happens.
Frustration happens.
War happens.
Evacuation happens.
Ebola happens.
Death happens.
Accidents happen.
Arguments happen.
Disagreements happen.
Infestations happen.
Botched surgeries happen.
Fractured bones happen.
Broken hearts happen.
Blindness happens.

With each happening, each inconvenience, I need to return to my calmest state and ask myself -
What am I supposed to see, to learn, to experience as a result of everything that happens to me, because of me and around me?
Who am I meant to assist in their journey towards new ways of seeing and experiencing their lives?
To whom will I turn when I lose my glasses and cannot find my way?
What can I be thankful for in the midst of the messiness, the mystery, and the miracle of this life journey I'm on?
Is it still true that all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of thing shall indeed be well?

Thank you, Steve, for the opportunity to take care of you in your moments of blindness.
Thank you for enduring my bad attitude and obvious impatience that day.
Thank you, Lisa, for challenging me to find a new way of seeing a new problem.
Thank you, Lord, for this yearning in me to find ways not only to be grateful, but also to learn the necessary lessons no matter what the situation. Thank you for allowing me to stumble in blindness sometimes so that I can learn to have a greater appreciation for the wonder of sight.

As much as I want to write - "I once was blind but now I see,"
the truth is that I'm still pretty blind in a lot of areas in my life.
But thanks be to progressive lenses and a progressive learning curve,
I see a whole lot better than I used to. Literally and figuratively.
Just keeping it real.
Thanks be to God.

Still thankful the following day... I met a friend for lunch today and in her prayer over our meal, she said, "And Lord, please remove the scales from our eyes so that we can see your kingdom breaking through into our lives and the world." Considering the fact that she hadn't read this Thankful Thursday post, I took her words as an awesome moment of synchronicity and confirmation... Amen? Amen.

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