The ophthalmologist’s assistant had performed all the preliminary procedures and tests—the drops in my eyes, the “put your chin here” in front of that mammoth whatever-it-is machine, the instrument on my numb eyeballs, and probably some other procedures I have since gratefully forgotten. But she hadn’t hinted at the coming shock.
My doctor casually walked into the examination room and said, “Looks like cataracts have caught up with you, but they’re ready to come out when you’re ready.”
What? Cataracts—plural? Surgery? I’d had a little trouble seeing road signs lately, but I thought I needed a prescription adjustment for my eyeglasses. How had I not realized my sight was so obstructed?
Weeks later my left eye and I experienced the first of two surgeries. I lay there on a hospital cart in my stylish paper cap and surgical gown, with an IV in my hand and my eye dilated so much I later thought it looked like I had a balloon in there. “You’ll be in what we call a ‘twilight sleep,’” the anesthesiologist said. I wanted to tell him I preferred “knock-out sleep,” but I understood the man with his hands in my eye might need to give me an instruction or two while he was working. “You’ll be able to hear us talking to you,” he added, “but you’ll be so ‘drunk’ you won’t care about anything going on.” He laughed. I forced a smile.
Au contraire. I was not so “drunk” that I didn’t care about what was going on. I cared. I felt no pain during the surgery (or after), but I could see unnatural swirling colors and lights and feel pressure. More important, I was aware the whole time that someone was digging around my eyeball. I would not call it a pleasant experience, but I knew it was necessary if I was to see clearly. After the surgery was over, my doctor said, “I would have expected that cataract in a woman of ninety!” That bad, huh? I had no idea.
Two weeks later, I would go through the same experience with my right eye. Meanwhile, I had an initially hazy but cataract-free, new-lens eye; a regiment that required four different eyedrops, three times a day; a cup thingy to tape over my eye at night, making me look like I could star in a nightmare as “the thing that went wrong”; special dark glasses for going outside; and a renewed appreciation for the gift of unobstructed sight.
In Matthew 7:3–5 (NIV), Jesus said, “‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’”
I don’t think Jesus was advocating we deal with our faults so we can be free to judge others, but he was making it clear we dare not do so when we have plenty of faults ourselves. Yet just as I was clueless about my cataracts, sometimes we’re blind to our need for full-blown “plank” extraction. How can we be so, well, blind?
In Psalm 139:23–25, David prayed, “Search me, O God…test me…see if there be any grievous way in me.” My doctor and his assistant tested me and found trouble. Perhaps the secret is to remember that we can be blind to our own faults, but God never is. If we ask him to show us the plank in our eye we don’t even realize is there, he will. If we agree to surgery to get rid of it, he will do it. If we ask him for follow-up exams, he’ll give us those too. And if we have an obstruction so bad we think it couldn’t possibly be extracted, where is our trust in his power to transform?
We’ll never have the sight God possesses, but because he loves us, we can ask him for the gift of unobstructed sight as we look around our homes, our communities, our world. Not so we can judge others, but so we will see all his children as he sees them.
Jean Kavich Bloom is a champion coffee drinker and a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries. She doesn’t garden, bake, or knit, but insists playing Scrabble is exactly the same thing. Jean and her husband, Cal, live in central Indiana. They have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren. She blogs at bloominwordstoo.blogspot.com.
Photograph © Rokas Niparavicius, used with permission