You can add diminished vision to the list of ailments that come along with growing older. I have been nearsighted since third grade, and though it is correctable to a point, I have reached the point of diminishing returns. To see perfectly at distance, I will not be able to see perfectly close; yet if I am corrected so that I see close things well, I cannot see as well at a distance. In addition, I have "floaters," little spots and threadlike things that move across my field of vision. As I understand it, these are cloudy particles that float within the vitreous --- the clear, jelly-like fluid that fills the inner portion of the eye. In my case (and the case of most others), these particles are harmless if annoying, a "part of the natural aging process," my optometrist says. Naturally.
I've caught myself the last few months lamenting the fact that I have to put up with less than crystal clear vision, that I might even have to don reading glasses (which, heretofore, I have been too vain to use). Yet like a lot of things that challenge us in life, as I drove away from the doctor today I tried to consider the lessons in it for me.
I am thankful that I can see nearly perfectly. When my mother took me to the eye doctor when I was eight, we drove away from the doctor, my hand clutching the case with my new glasses. Before we left the parking lot, I remember taking those ugly gray rimmed glasses out of their case (actually, they would be fashionable now) and putting them on. I was awestruck by the clarity of my vision. I remember telling my mother that the trees had branches and limbs, and that I could see each individual leaf. I was fascinated by what the world looked like in detail. I am reminded of the importance of really noticing what is around me, of paying attention, of focusing, of the need to cultivate a sense of wonder at the richly detailed Creation around me. Forty-two years and many broken glasses and lost contact lenses later, I am still in wonder.
I am humbled by how dimly I see. No doubt my vision will not improve as I age. And yet its diminution only reminds me of the truth that no matter how much I have seen, I am aware of so much more I have not seen. That's even more spiritually true. Self-knowledge and knowledge of God is clouded, beset and obstructed by other distractions, floaters in my field of vision. The closer you get to understanding God (an audacious thought, anyway), the more you realize how far you are from understanding. Yet I can celebrate the reminder that one day I will see clearly, visually and spiritually, that I will fully know God, much as I am fully known by Him. What's even more exciting is that I not only will see God more clearly but will see everything else more clearly in His light. I saw robins on the snow this morning, and yet I can't fully appreciate what they are, can't fully see their glory. One day I will. One day I'll look at a robin and say, "so that's what you really are." I'll be eight again, a kid with new glasses, seeing things he's never seen.
I am challenged to look beyond my present circumstances. Floaters, like any distraction, are temporal. They may endure, and yet the challenge for me is to look at a larger landscape beyond what's quite literally under my nose. For the most part, I don't notice these annoying blemishes on my vision, as I am preoccupied with other matters. A brief to write. A conversation with my wife. The cat that stayed in a tree for 16 hours before we were able to pry it loose. It's only when I fixate on the floaters that they bother me. That's really true with any nettlesome concern or bother. A fixation on it is distracting and only leads to self-pity. There are greater things at hand, a larger work going on, and there is the promise of a future when all such distractions will be removed.
Every challenge brings opportunity. Wakefulness at night brings solitude and time for prayer. A new ache reminds me of how well my body has served me and what an amazing creation it is. And "floaters" remind me that one day I will no longer see dimly but will clearly and deeply, understanding the essence of the things that God has made, knowing Him and being known fully. Naturally.