When I was in second grade I began to have a hard time seeing the chalkboard from my desk–still had chalkboards then. Later it would be determined that I was nearsighted and I had to get glasses. I could read and study and go to recess without my glasses but I needed to wear them in class while anything was taking place at the board. Over the years, the nearness of my nearsightedness only intensified and I’d have to wear my corrective lenses almost all the time.
When I was eighteen I changed from eyeglasses to contact lenses. At that time, the optometrist I went to was located within a big-box retail store. After putting contacts into my eyes for the first time ever, the doctor had me walk around the store for a while to allow my eyes time to adjust. So there I was, walking down the soda aisle and I could not believe my eyes! I was used to soda coming in two liter bottles. Every so often you could also get a certain off-brand variety in three liter bottles. But as I walked down the aisle I saw what I thought to be every possible brand of soda in three liter bottles. So I picked up one of the bottles, read the label and was surprised that it was only two liters. But it looked like three! I picked up another bottle, different brand, and it was the same thing. What looked like a three liter bottle was indeed only two. It wasn’t the bottles that had changed. It was my vision! The new contact lenses provided a fullness of perspective that my previous eyeglasses had not. While I was now quite exited to wear my new contacts I was also a little sad. My discovery revealed that I’d been going through life missing an entire liter, visually speaking.
Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida in a two-step process and after the initial step asks, “Can you see anything?” The blind man responds that he can see people but they look like trees. Jesus had earlier quoted the prophet Isaiah, “They may indeed look, but not perceive.” The Pharisees and Scribes see Jesus as a threat to their religious power yet they do not see their own hypocrisy. The disciples seldom see who is really in their midst; but on the mount of transfiguration they get a glimpse of Jesus’ glory. Yet when Jesus sees the crowds he has compassion for them and he feeds them.
Flannery O’Connor once said, “Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see, and they will not be a substitute for seeing.” The Gospels tell of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God and of Jesus who confronts the powers and structures of both seeing and believing. What might this good news mean for you and how and what you see and believe?
Twenty years later, my eyesight is going in a different direction. Instead of being merely nearsighted, I am discovering I often need to allow a little more space between my eyes and my reading materials. I now have to push the bulletin and hymnal away to see it better. I suppose it will simply be a matter of time before I need to look into progressive lenses. I once was blind but now I see is how the song goes, but even so we need to remember that still we see through a glass dimly. Our vision is never entire or complete.
(This was adapted from an old Church Herald article.)