Friday, October 14, 2016

Do you see what I see?

I got a new pair of glasses a couple of weeks ago. Progressives. Two eye appointments ago, back in 2014, I chose to get progressives. But since I'm near-sighted, I found myself taking my glasses off when I would read or work on my computer - both of which I do a lot. That year, I spent most of my time without my glasses on. The last time I got my eyes examined and got a new pair of glasses, I decided to get mono-vision glasses in my prescription for distance. I used them when I watched television and drove and went to the movies, you know, distance stuff. I had no choice but to take them off to read - but that was a challenge when I was at church or in seminary, places where I would have to look at people and screens a fair distance away, but also look down and take notes. On and off. On and off. Now I'm back to progressives - which are just a euphemistic name for bifocals, old people glasses. I'm getting old. Well, maybe I'm not getting old, but my eyes certainly are.

I like these new glasses, but it took me a few days to get used to them. The first full day that I wore them, I felt slightly nauseous all day. It was late in the afternoon before I figured out that my eyes and brain were struggling with this new way of seeing the world. It felt like I was on a boat out at sea. All day long. I'm more accustomed to them - but I must confess that I have started to take them off again when I'm reading or on the computer. Like right now, as I type, I don't have my glasses on.

Anyway, I've got these new glasses. I see my world, my house, my neighborhood, and I even see myself in the mirror more clearly with these new glasses. I am enormously grateful for the clearer vision they have provided. I am grateful for the doctors and nurses and technicians and engineers who understand the angles and curves and functions of the nerves and cells and components of the human eye and who have created glasses and contacts and anti-glare coatings and all the other gadgets and gizmos that make it possible for those of us with aging eyes and imperfect eyes to see better.

Someone I love had surgery a few years ago to remove cataracts. It was like a curtain had been removed from in front of her. Her blurry vision cleared completely. That same person has glaucoma and has to put drops into her eyes every day. We both hope and pray that the drops continue to keep the pressure in her eyes low enough so that she does not deal with any of the irreversible loss of sight that glaucoma can cause.

Two people I love are dealing with macular degeneration - the blurring of the macula, the central part of the retina at the back of the eyeball, which causes the loss of sight in the center of their field of vision. I know someone who can't look straight at you - she has to turn her head to the side in order to see straight ahead. I think she is dealing with macular degeneration or something very similar to that.

When I was in elementary school, there were two or three children there who were blind. I volunteered to help them get around the classroom and the school, and in exchange, I got to hang out with the most interesting kids in school. They taught me how to read and write in braille. They let me eat with them and hang out with them in the school yard and marvel at the development of their other senses. Around that same time, my father used to drive blind people back and forth from Brooklyn to the New York School for the Blind in Manhattan. During the summer months, I would ride along with him. The men and women he drove were fascinating to me. I wondered how they got dressed without seeing their clothes. I wondered how they kept their homes clean, how they organized their wallets, how they knew where anything was. I didn't know enough not to ask dozens of questions. When we arrived at the homes of the passengers, I would hop out of the van, go greet them outside their homes, offer them my arm, and walk them to the van. When we arrived at their school, I would open the van door and escort them one by one from the van to the door of the building. From there, they could figure out where they needed to go. I watched their every move with unabashed awe. I'm glad they couldn't see how much I stared at them, but I would imagine they sensed it in some other way.

One day when I was ten or eleven years old, one of the women took hold of my elbow and as we walked towards the entrance to the school, she said, "You are going to grow up to be very tall." I asked her how she could tell, and she said, "I can tell by how the bones in your arm feel." Amazing.

The human eye, the gift of sight, the ability to compensate for the loss of one's sight through other brain patterns - it's amazing.

All of which has gotten me thinking...

What are a few of the things right in front of me that I do not see?
The beauty of fallen leaves - even when they clog our gutters
the resilience of my aging and scarred body
the courage of my young adult children
the loyalty of my hard-working husband.

Where is pressure building up within and behind my eyeballs?
The pressure to get good grades in seminary
to not offend people when they said offensive things
to be kind and nice and happy all the time
to have a solution whenever someone shares a problem with me.

Where is my vision getting blurry?
And what is it going to take to clear up the blurriness?
Am I willing to get my emotional, spiritual, relational eyes checked?
Whose opinion about the state of my mental health do I trust?
Whose diagnosis and prognosis would I accept as reasonable and valid?
What steps am I willing to take to improve my vision?
Am I willing to wear progressives, to take gradual steps towards clarity?
What if I feel dizzy, uncertain, unsteady on this new path, this new life journey?
Am I willing to be vulnerable enough to truth the guidance of others,
people I can't even see?

Whose unexplained but undeniable insight do I trust?
Who are the marginalized, the overlooked, the outcasts in my world -
and how much time do I spend at their feet, learning from them?
Who has invited me into their world, into their situation, and shown me how much I am missing, even though I think I am the "fortunate" one?

I am reminded of the stories in the gospels of Jesus healing people who were blind.
More than once, Jesus asked this question: "What do you want me to do for you?"
I want to see.
I want to see again.
I want to be whole.

Holy One, I want to see.
Please open my eyes.
Open the eyes of my heart.
To see love, beauty, power, and hope in everyone I meet.
To see your image in everyone I meet.
I want to see you.

"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."

So be it, Lord. So be it.

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