As an adult, I know there is nothing in my closet or under my bed except stray socks and dust bunnies. But my fears grew up along with me and the dark things I wrestle with now can loom far greater in my mind. For the past decade, I have faced a disease that threatens to rob me of my eyesight. During the course of aggressive medical treatment, I developed thick cataracts on both eyes rather suddenly. These were not typical, age-related cataracts that come on gradually over decades, but aggressive growths that rendered me legally blind in a matter of weeks. First, I had to relinquish my driver’s license—no small loss to an independent, free-ranging soul such as myself. Before long, I needed help crossing the street and stepping up stairs. I spent a good deal of time rocking on my front porch, brooding in a suffocating fog. What could be worse than living in darkness, I wondered…
One day, I was out stretching my legs in the safety of my familiar backyard with our aging dog, Kylie. I was on my cell phone, which I had programmed to voice command because I could no longer see the numbers, and I glanced up to see Kylie hunched over in the neighbor’s lawn doing her business. I was appalled. Cleaning up after a German shepherd is not like cleaning up after a poodle. You need a manure spreader, or at least a wheelbarrow, and I was sure that I would not be able to locate the mess without help. I looked guiltily over at the yellow blur that was the neighbor’s house and detected no movement. I put my hand over the phone and hissed, “Kylie, come HERE!!!” Bear in mind the dog was 12 and deaf as a rock, so I had to close my phone and raise my voice to a venomous shout, “KYLIE. GET. OVER. HERE.” She didn’t move and I was filled with wrath over her disobedience and my own inability to control the situation. All of a sudden, I felt something against my leg and looked down. There was my old, hearing-impaired dog—leaning against my leg, tongue lolling, perfectly at peace. She never heard me call for her. She hadn’t been in the neighbor’s yard at all. She had never left my side. I sheepishly walked over to inspect what I had believed was my crouching dog. It was a bush. I’d been standing outside yelling at a bush.
Around this same time, I was riding in the car with my perfectly sighted spouse. Always the backseat driver from the passenger side, I did not concede this role even when I could no longer see my hand clearly in front of my face. Cars and trucks materialized without warning from the fog ahead of me making travel a truly frightening experience. “Ron!” I gasped, clutching my door. “Don’t go so fast! Aren’t you following that car awfully close? What’s that? What is that car doing?! SLOW DOWN.” And my husband, a conservative driver with a spotless driving record, reached over, patted my leg and said, “Dawn, can you see the road?” I scowled by way of reply. I could hear the smile in his voice when he patiently replied, “Then trust me. Let me drive.”
Throughout these dark days, I considered often words from 2 Corinthians 4:18: “…we do not look for things that can be seen but for things that cannot be seen. For things that can be seen are temporary, but things that cannot be seen are eternal.” Similarly, 2 Cor.5:7, says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” I struggled with what those words meant. If we can’t walk by sight—looking for the landmarks we see, what we remember, what is apparent and obvious and logical—then what will direct us? What, exactly, is faith? The book of Hebrews, chapter 11 verse 1 explains, “Faith is the substance of things we hope for, the proof of things we can’t see.” Combined with the previous verses cited, I conclude: We live our lives by the reality of what we hope for, proving to be real the things that are invisible. If I live my life (walk a path) that is clear to me—I am living only a shadow of what is real. The really real stuff? I can’t see it.
I am happy to report that two cataract surgeries corrected much of my vision loss from nearly two years ago and I am back to driving and reading and looking at people’s faces again. But I have not forgotten my musings from the darkness of those days. A heightened appreciation for physical sight has made me increasingly aware of how blind I am in so many other ways. It’s caused me to give new consideration to the admonition, “remove the plank in your own eye before you help your brother with the speck in his.” My blindness to my own shortcomings causes me to distrust my own judgment of what is right. How can I know my own way much less the path someone else should take? I am reduced to yelling at bushes or snatching the wheel to avoid imagined disaster. Sadly, I am unable to see clearly around that enormously cumbersome obstacle…myself. I am always in my way.
So, while I continue to ask God to heal my eyes, I also pray He who has perfect sight will open the eyes of my understanding so I won’t be reduced to living these brief days distracted and preoccupied with the glitter and baubles that will all too soon crumble and fade like cheap toys from a Happy Meal. I don’t want to stumble around in the dark trying to convince others I know what I’m doing—all the while looking for the Boogie Man over my shoulder. I need God’s light in my darkness; the insight He can give is more valuable and lasting than physical sight. To know, to understand, to discern and value what lasts forever is the key to living a life full of hope that will produce the reality of all we don’t currently observe. The Apostle Paul once told his friends at Ephesus, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Eph.1:18, 19)