I had a horrible sinking feeling in my gut when I woke up in the wee hours Sunday morning and tried to look at the clock. I got up and turned on the bathroom light. Yup. It was back.
The fog. The rainbow halos around lights. The fear. Blindness.
The eye specialist who treated me last time said it’s a very rare condition. He’s only seen three cases in his very busy practice here and back in South Africa. It comes in combination with autoimmune disease that causes inflammations in the joints and eyes and other parts of the body. The tiny drain pipes in the eye are blocked by shedding cells and pressure builds up so fast that the lens actually steams up. It’s a crisis and if the pressures are not brought down I could lose my sight within hours.
I cried, “But, Lord! You healed me of this five years ago! I threw away the cane! I invested in new camera gear! Why is this back?”
The staff at the hospital was super and I received immediate attention, but it’s such a rare condition they never know what to do. I have to explain it to them. In the old days it always seemed to flare up when there were no ophthalmologists within a four-hour drive, or when I was visiting another city or small town. But I’ve been doing so well lately that I don’t know what I did with the slip of paper with the names of the medications I used to need.
I prayed. Man, I prayed, and I called friends and asked them to pray.
By the time I saw the eye doctor my vision was back to normal (and it was a joy to see him). There was no sign of uveitis. My pressures were within normal range. He assured me that although he believed my story, there was no evidence that I was in danger and there was no need to take drastic action or even use any of the drops with nasty side-effects. He couldn’t explain it. Some sort of temporary anomaly.
“You’re fine. Go home and just come back if it happens again.”
So, Lord. What was that about?
I keep running into scripture verses about having eyes and not seeing, and about having ears and not hearing. (I had a horribly sore throat and ear ache last week too come to think of it.) This morning I read the warning to the church of Laodicea who thought they were prosperous and doing so well, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:17-19) (The word repent here meaning “change your mind, or think again.”)
Oliver Sacks tells the story of a man whose sight was restored after being blind since childhood. The task of learning to interpret visual data into meaningful images became overwhelming for him. He had to learn that a dog can have entirely different shapes depending on the direction he is running, things change size according to how near or far they are and a truck on the road two blocks away does not require as quick a reaction as a toy truck two feet away on the side-walk. As a blind physiotherapist who could read braille he was considered highly skilled. As a sighted man he was treated like an incompetent idiot because he hadn’t yet learned to read simple signs. Eventually he shut off his mind to the barrage of visual information that made him feel so out of control and went back to life as a blind man. It was so much easier.
I think people who are developing spiritual sight feel like this. When we come alive in Christ and he communicates with us through a newly awakened sense it is difficult to interpret the information until the mind is renewed. We don’t have a grid for it. We feel humbled, incompetent. When logic and reason was our highest faculty we knew how the system worked and how to function. When God asks us to subject our minds to His way of seeing it can be thrilling at first, then confusing, then hard work. I wonder if a lot of people simply shut down the ability to see and hear God in a realm beyond our physical senses because we felt more sure of ourselves the way it was before. Repentance, or changing the way we think, and cooperation with God to construct a new grid can be really tough. It means living in what feels like a chaotic construction zone sometimes. We long for decently-and-in-order, right and wrong rules and regulations and a predictable easy life. Like the children of Israel said to Moses, when confronted with the fire and trumpet show on the mountain, we say this Yhwh is too scary. Just get the essentials in writing and we’ll have our people look at it.
It becomes easy to accept spiritual sensitivity impairment as normal.
Jesus said to his disciples who were discussing the lack of bread shortly after they had seen thousands fed miraculously with their own eyes, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:17,18)
Paul reminded Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” (1 Tim 4: 14,15)
I wonder if losing my sight this week was meant to be a reminder of how precious it is and not to take it for granted.
This much I know: I am thankful for eyesight. I am deeply grateful that it has been restored. Coincidentally (as if) I spent part of the evening with my friend’s mother who is blind from a similar condition. She is an incredibly courageous, stubbornly independent woman who managed to live alone on her farm for several years after becoming almost totally blind. I held her hand as she also told me of the terror of feeling lost in a motel room, of tripping over her little grandchildren, and of not being able to eat rice anymore because she tired of hunting for it on her plate. She understood how I felt waking up with ominous symptoms, but I felt awkward sitting beside her with my vision restored.
Why are some people healed, and some people not? I don’t know.
Is healing permanent? A humour-impaired doctor once told me when he brought back an unexpectedly good test result, “Good news! You are going to die of something else.” So far, we all die. Healing is a sign that points to something -or Someone. It is not the destination itself.
But today, here now, I can see, and I am profoundly grateful, and I will continue to learn to use my physical eyes and my spiritual eyes to pay attention to what God is saying for as long as he gives me strength.
You can be pretty frustrating, Lord, but I trust you. Teach me.