Welcome to April’s Word for the Month, and a special welcome to anyone joining us for the first time. May God bless you richly as you read on. At the end there is a prayer, and a blessing on video.
Problems with sight
Once upon a time, two ladies arrived at our school to meet with each pupil. I was probably about 6 years old at the time. When it was my turn, they sat me down and opened some books with coloured dots on each page. They then proceeded to ask me to point out the letters or numerals that were hidden within the colours. I was unable to see any. Their response – to be angry with me and report me to my form teacher for being awkward! That was that.
Unfortunately, I was not doing as well with classwork as the teacher was expecting. They met me with my parents and tried to work out why I seemed to have a problem. That is when they discovered that I was unable to see the blackboard. Easy solution – sit me at the front of the class in front of the blackboard, to the pleasure of the pupil I replaced who escaped to the back. That was that.
Several years were to pass before our sports teacher recognised that I might have a sight problem; mainly because I was forever being hit by balls that I obviously couldn’t see coming. A painful experience when I was batting, and enormously frustrating because I dreamt of being a great batsman.
That was when I was sent for an eye test, following which the optician spoke with my parents and asked how on earth I had managed without being diagnosed as needing glasses all this time. My parents were as surprised as I was.
It was a Friday afternoon, straight after school, that I had to go and collect my new spectacles. I was shocked by what I could see. My parents came and collected me, and we set off immediately on a 100-mile car trip to visit my grandparents. Apparently, I drove them mad as I kept calling out “look, I can see birds!” “There’s a hedge at the top of the field we are passing” and so on. They thought I was messing about but in fact a whole new world had been opened up for me to experience. I was amazed by the things I could see that were new to me. I had no idea of what I had been missing. (I could now see balls coming but, sadly, I was never going to be a great batsman.)
As I grew older, on into adulthood, I still had difficulties with colour distinction. There was no way I could distinguish orange from red, grey or green from blue and so on. It led to some funny situations, as you can imagine. My night-blindness could be a nuisance. I once made the mistake of taking my teenage children to climb a steep and rocky hill one late evening, so we could have a picnic on the top and watch the sun set across Wales. It was great, until the daylight totally disappeared. When I stood up, I couldn’t see anything at all. It was scary – I felt as though I was standing in freefall. My son and daughter took an arm each and had to carefully walk me down, carefully avoiding the rocks. I found it hard to understand how they could see so well when I couldn’t see anything whatsoever.
Over the intervening years my eyesight deteriorated, as it does for many. I was totally dependent on my glasses from the moment I opened my eyes and could only see either lightness or darkness without them.
More recently the deterioration accelerated, with new lenses needed every few months. I couldn’t travel alone because the illuminated Departures/Arrivals signs blinded me, making it impossible for me to read anything on them. Stage or TV lights were a nightmare.
Then my balance was affected. I couldn’t walk outside unless someone was with me to make sure I didn’t fall over.
By the end of last November I was no longer able to read, and a couple of weeks later I had to stop driving. What do you do when you cannot read? I could watch YouTube videos on my tablet, holding it close to my eyes. TV was a real difficulty, though. If I sat in front of it, just 3 feet away, I could watch quite clearly; only possible if I was on my own.
Cataracts had developed in both eyes and I had long been on a waiting list. An unexpected call in December resulted in Daphne driving me to Bristol, in England, where a specialist private clinic would take me on, courtesy of the wonderful Wales NHS.
My first and worst eye was operated on in early January. There were physical issues with my eye, and the surgeon told me that he was concerned my brain would separate each eye’s sight from the other. He was correct. It became a nightmare. I could only see clearly through that eye if I wore dark glasses plus a patch over the other eye. Not so bad on a bright day but it would make anyone self-conscious on a grey day. Even then it was only long distance that was clear. I still couldn’t read or look at a computer screen, although TV was marvellous.
Spatial awareness was lost. I walked into furniture in the house, into walls as I misjudged distance, and knocked drinks and plates across the table or went to pick things up and missed. I walked straight into a visitor. Embarrassing, weird, and sometimes funny.
Roll forward to just four weeks ago and a second procedure.
It’s like a miracle. Far greater than when I first had glasses as a schoolboy.
Now I can see with brilliantly clear, unified sight. Colours are clear and easily distinguishable. I can see in the dark, within natural reason. My balance is fine. No more light sensitivity. Spatial awareness is restored. It’s a whole new world. I am seeing things I have never seen before in my life. A bee in flight for the first time ever! Orange is a separate colour to red. Instead of a tiny, compact tunnel image, I now see a vast panorama before me. I am thrilled and excited beyond measure. Now it’s Daphne who is having to put up with my shouts of “look at that!”
Recognising people is the hiccup. I have always been hopeless at it because all I have seen is a sort of impression of the person’s face. Now I see clearly and find it hard to work out who I’m meeting, even if I know them quite well. The great news is that I see so much detail that ‘once seen never forgotten’ might just be true for me now.
I wonder whether you are picking up something of my joy and excitement. I hope so! What I am seeing for the first time is like a revelation of clarity.
For years I had thought that my eyesight was fine, but now realise just how poor my sight has always been; how faulty my vision was; how much I have missed. Yet every negative is itself overwhelmed by the amazing truth: though once I was (going) blind, yet now I see.
An Easter Meditation
Now listen to this – the veil of the temple
was torn from the top to the bottom.
The word ‘Behold’ means ‘now listen to this’. It’s stating that what’s about to be said is significant and you had better listen carefully. Matt (27:51) Mark (15:38) and Luke (23:45) each say the same.
The testimony of scripture is, and listen carefully, that at the very moment Jesus died, the veil in the temple that stopped ordinary people seeing, approaching or entering the Holy of Holies was finished with. It was ripped apart. The way is now open for you and me to see, approach and enter, all because of the cross of Christ. There is no further need for the sacrificial system. We have become acceptable to the Father through the shed blood of Jesus. Paul writes
Having turned to him, then, we are now able to enjoy open communion with God. We were spiritually blind, but now we can see. Everything becomes new. Light and colour, beauty and splendour all have a new impact on us. Surely the whole earth is speaking of the glory of the Lord. We have been transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son. Colossians 1:13
There is a warning, too. If we become legalistic, the veil returns. Our legalism, rules, and procedures tend to grow in stature in our sight, blotting out the way to the Father. “O foolish Galatians! who has bewitched you? … Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” see Galatians 3.
Again, Paul writes of those who look at the law – 2 Corinthians 3:14 “For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts”.
So, this Easter let us nail our religiosity, our legalisms and our guilt to the Cross, where it belongs. Let us claim again the wonderful privilege of freedom with responsibility, shaking off the chains/sins that so easily entangle us, and engage with life as God’s free children.
For a fuller New Testament treatment, read Hebrews 9: 2-3, 12, 24. And Hebrews 10: 19-20.
Lord Jesus, you laid down your life so that I might live. You were cut off from the Father so that I might have access. Thank you for such grace, such mercy. I surrender myself to you.
Father, you were willing to allow your Son to die so that I, who was separated from you, might come to know you. Thank you for such love. I surrender myself to you.
Holy Spirit, you dwell within me as a counsellor. Help me to fellowship with you. Please lead me into the Holy of Holies. I surrender myself to you.
I give grateful thanks to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
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