Sixteen years ago or so, we first walked into the building which would quickly become our church home. It’s a prefab structure, nothing fancy, and this did not bother us a bit because the people there are honest and warm and know how to love each other well; and that’s all that really matters. But one aesthetic did bother me a bit. Why, I wondered, if a church building so plain and utilitarian bothered to have stained glass windows at all, have such terribly ugly ones? Muddy brown and olive drab, these hideous windows finally just receded into the background of my awareness and I don’t remember ever mentioning my shallow objection to them to anyone.
Over a dozen years later, ugly windows were the least of my concerns. I couldn’t really see them at all anymore. My eyesight, never very good, was deteriorating quickly. I had several different things wrong with them. My eye doctor gave me little hope—I would eventually be legally blind, and then perhaps altogether sightless. I went to a specialist, who explained that my many eye problems were caused by two unrelated birth defects. He could monitor my symptoms and if my retinas detached he could laser them back on, but other than that he couldn’t help me improve my eyesight either.
Then, through our church elders, I was introduced to an eye surgeon who had invented his own techniques for restoring vision. He has become world-renowned for giving sight to the blind. A dedicated Christian, he was certain he could help me, because, he explained, God had given him gifts of healing. His work is so unique that our insurance would not cover it, but he was willing to work with me so that I might be able to see again. This good man prayed with me before each surgery and gave all glory to God when I opened my eyes for the first time after his procedures and was able to read a sign across the room unaided.
I cannot possibly express the incredible delight I had in just looking at things after my amazing surgeries. I had not realized how very little I was actually seeing before then. I knew, for example, that I could not recognize my students’ faces when they were more than one row back in the classroom, but I did not know it was possible for anyone to recognize people’s faces from 20 yards away! The first time I went to church after my procedures, I sat amazed on one side of the room and marveled that I could see faces clearly all the way on the other side. I could see the worship team’s expressions as the led the singing. I could see every nuance on my pastor’s face as he spoke the message. I had not seen these things in so long, I had forgotten that it was even a possibility.
But what truly blew me away were the stained glass windows. My broken eyes had been lying to me for all of those years. Not muddy brown and olive drab at all, their many hues of gold and green glinted brightly down on me like jewels, indescribably beautiful! I could not tear my eyes away from them, I was so awestruck. How could it be that I had been seeing things so wrong for so long without knowing it?
The process to bring my eyesight back has not been easy and it will, frankly, be a lifelong process to maintain it. I have at least one more surgery to go through and I will have to have frequent checkups for the rest of my life. It’s possible I will lose again some or all that I have gained. But it’s all worth it, just to have seen things as they really are even for just a little while. My perspective has changed and allowed me to see the truth.
Still, it has been hard and costly, and no one could have blamed me for saying no to the doctor’s offer of help. After all, I was born with these eyes. I could make the argument that God wanted me to see things differently than most for reasons of His own. I could even have argued that my perspective was as valid as anyone else’s, and who could have blamed me? I didn’t know any other way of seeing. The doctor could explain it and he could give me literature to read about it, but he could not make me understand what things truly look like until he gave me eyes to see them. I had to place myself with blind faith into the hands of the physician and let him cut me open before I could even begin to realize what it was he could do for me.
Am I alone in having had to trust blindly in order to see clearly? I am surely not the only one in the world who was born with broken eyes.