A visit to the optometrist late this past week has confirmed what I have suspected for some time: deterioration in my eyesight. As with everyone who notices such changes, I have adopted behaviours which have compensated for the limitations, and have been able to function without any severe restriction. Contrary to many in my own age group, I have developed a degree of short-sightedness which has robbed me of detail over distance in low light. When the optometrist placed some corrective lenses over my eyes in the surgery, I noticed little difference. But when we stood at the window and looked into the distance, blurry signs revealed their contents! It was liberating.
I had come to accept the blurriness as part of age, considering it not an inconvenience so much as a characteristic. At times of extreme tiredness it became most obvious to me, which I used as a barometer for pacing myself. How that will work out in the future remains to be seen.
Isn't it interesting how we find ways to adapt to our own limitations? Learning to live within our limits is a part of the maturing process, but also itself a challenge. It is one thing to recognise that I have to work within the limits of my capabilities, it is quite another to work as though that which is beyond our limits is either irrelevant, or non-existent. A key aspect in the journey of faith is the affirmation that there is more than we can perceive, something beyond what we have been able to grasp. Whether it be our understanding of God, of His work in the world, or of people that we know and meet, the human tendency to limit others through our own perceptions often robs us of innate beauty and wonder.
When scientists declared that the atom could not be split, they closed themselves off to a world of discovery. When the head of the US Patents office declared at the end of the 19th century that everything that could be invented has been invented, he was disregarding the creativity of the human spirit. When we write people off as evil, or "not worth the time" we may save ourselves some pain but at the same time rob ourselves of potential joy and intimacy in unexpected ways.
When we close our minds to things that our eyes cannot see, or that our thoughts cannot grasp, we let our own limitation become a wall around our world, and condemn ourselves to stunted growth. Inasmuch as we avoid pain and disappointment, we also obviate the joy and wonder of discovery.
At the heart of the journey of faith is a determination to keep the borders open: to be prepared to explore what we might not know, or even fear. Faith becomes a lens which opens our minds and hearts to new possibilities, ever present, but often just outside our frame of vision. "Lord, help me to see as you see!"
October 16, 2005