Perhaps you may have guessed from its title that this article incorporates some metaphor for spiritual or theological blindness. But, no, I’m actually referring to physical blindness. I happen to be blind. Well, that’s actually only half true. I”m blind in one eye – my left eye to be precise. I was born that way. For some reason, the optic nerve in that eye just didn’t develop. I saw a picture of it once at the opthamologist’s office. It looked like a dead withered plant, as compared to the healthy optic nerve of my right eye, which appeared like a bouquet in full bloom.
Of course, my family and close friends know, but I generally don’t tell people about my condition. I suppose it’s mainly on account of not wanting to be viewed or treated differently. But there are times when I might feel it necessary to let people know. (For example, if they’re wondering why I seem to be oblivious to their presence if they’re standing outside my limited peripheral vision.) While it’s never been a source of shame for me, still it’s something I tend to downplay.
Some years ago, at the suggestion of some friends, I started playing tennis. It’s something that I’ve very much come to enjoy. And while I’m far from being a great player, I daresay I’ve improved over the years. This summer, I’ve been fortunate to play with a friend nearly every morning before the day becomes too hot. We’re pretty evenly matched and have some really fun rallies. But there are also times at which I completely misjudge the ball, mishit it, or just miss it altogether. I got rather frustrated on one of these occasions and began to chide myself on the court. My friend, seeing my agitation, yelled from across the net, “Cut yourself a little slack – you’re blind in one eye!”
He was, of course, not informing me of anything I didn’t already know. And yet it’s something that I do often tend to forget, mainly perhaps because I’ve never known anything different. But later that day, I took some time to imagine what it would be like to have the use of both eyes. I considered how vastly broader my range of peripheral vision would be, not to mention the whole issue of depth perception, which I can only imagine in a way that perhaps a deaf person can imagine music. As I contemplated these things, I couldn’t help but wonder what life might have been like with two fully functioning orbs. Perhaps I could have been an athlete, or a pilot, or a cop like my father. Who knows in what ways my life could have turned out quite differently?
I suppose for a brief moment, I may have felt some sense of injustice. I remembered all those times playing little league baseball that I struck out at bat. I felt inferior to the other kids. But now it all made complete sense. Whatever sadness over misfortune I might have experienced was quickly overtaken by a wave of gratitude. I have one eye with which to see the splendor of God’s creation. With some adjustments, I’m able to do nearly everything that others take for granted. Yes, I may swing and miss the ball at times, but I can even enjoy playing tennis.
A larger lesson all of this has taught me is perhaps this: that each of us is born with gifts as well as limitations. It can be easy to look upon the talents and accomplishments of others with a degree of envy. I know this is something of which I am often guilty. It may also be a temptation to give in to an unhealthy obsession over “the things that might have been if only…” (something else with which I often struggle). In the end, we will only find joy in doing our best to do what is pleasing to God by striving to become the best possible version of ourselves. OK, so maybe there was an intended metaphor in here all along.