Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Frustration of Failing Eyesight

I am one of those people who likes, maybe even needs, to see everything clearly.
I  like my future planned out neatly before me.
When I was younger, I had my future planned out. I was going to be a writer. I was going to get married and have a child or two. Before I married, I wanted to have an apartment of my own in Chicago. I wanted to go to Europe, specifically Paris. I wanted to earn my graduate degree.

And, I did most of those things.
But, as I walk through middle age, things are not quite as clear as they once were.

My eyesight, for one, is shot. Things began to appear significantly fuzzier in my early 40s. I remember eating out in a dimly-lit restaurant and not being able to read the menu. I fumbled for the tiny key-chain flashlight in my purse and muttered, “Why do they print things so tiny!?” When the flashlight didn’t appear, I held the candle inches from the print and squinted.
My husband Milt remembers one night when, due to my failing eyesight, I ordered a $29.99 appetizer, thinking it was only $7.99. When the bill came with the huge sum, I was outraged. “They overcharged us!” I protested.

“No,” he pointed out. “It’s right there, on the menu.”
It was clearly printed on the menu I could no longer read without wearing glasses.

This year, after several years of wearing reading glasses 24/7, I gave in and purchased a pair of progressive lenses. This, apparently, is the new fancy word for bifocals. They are working, but I am still adjusting to the fact that I need them for everyday tasks.
Yes, I’m getting older, and life is getting fuzzier.

My future is also less clear. I don’t always know what is around the bend. I can’t control outcomes. I can't prepare for everything. It feels like I have more to worry about – my family, my career, our health, our finances. There is more at stake, and it seems like there is also less certainty in what comes next.

This grey, fuzziness is connected to our faith. There are so many times when we can’t see clearly – and it frustrates us. Anne Lamott once compared God’s guidance to the frustration of driving through dense fog. The car lights only shine a few yards ahead of us.

I remember, as a child, being on a family road trip when a dense fog rolled in. The highway became a mass of grey swirling clouds. It was night, and my dad was getting nervous. We couldn't see the side of the road. We couldn't see the exits. We could vaguely make out headlights on the two-lane highway - but it was getting treacherous. My mom was nervous, and my dad slowed the car down to a crawl.
He opened the driver's side door just a bit and kept his eye on the center line. We crept along slowly until we made it safely to our destination. The fog was blinding and bewildering.
Mentally, we struggle with driving through the fog. We want to see the whole road. Yet, the murky, soupy fog blocks that vision. We can only see what is directly ahead. Yet, we have that much.
God doesn’t always reveal the full plans for our lives. Even though I know He holds my future, I can get frustrated when I'm not in on the plan. He gives us just a bit of vision. And, for now, that has to be enough.
I don’t like fuzziness. I don’t like to see things this way, but it is the realistic limitation of our earthly existence.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible talks about this and sheds a bit of hope on the situation – I like the King James version best:

“For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known.” I Cor. 13:12
Looking at our life can sometimes be like peering at that menu in the dim restaurant. We can’t see clearly. The mirror is old and dim and dark. But, we can rest assured that this lack of vision won’t be our fate forever.

God gives us hope.
We will see and be seen.
We will know and be known.

We will cast off our earthly glasses and see everything, clearly, at last.