I was born with terrible vision. By the age of two or three I was in glasses to help me with my extreme nearsightedness, at the age of seven I was in soft contact lenses, and at the age of 13 I was in what are called “rigid gas permeable” (i.e. “hard”) contact lenses. My vision was about negative 15 in each eye, and I had severe astigmatism in both eyes as well. Over time, through high school and on into my twenties, after wearing hard lenses for 14 hours every day, I developed chronic dry eyes, redness, swollen eye lids, warped corneas, and experienced constant pain and discomfort every minute of the day.
Because of this, I was an eye doctor’s nightmare. My terrible vision and multiple other eye issues confounded most of the ones I visited. It wouldn’t take me long to be able to tell when a particular eye doctor had run out of ideas of how to help me see well, or which lenses would be best for me, or which issue with my eyes should be addressed first.
About a year and a half ago, after an eye doctor had tried to get me back into soft contact lenses with little success, she basically broke up with me as a patient. “Mr. Brown”, she said, “I don’t think I can help you anymore”. She was the fourth or fifth eye doctor to say that to me. I left her office discouraged, depressed, and hopeless.
That night I googled (for the hundredth time) a particular kind of eye surgery that would allow for my terrible vision to be corrected. It wasn’t a laser surgery (my eyes were way beyond their reach), it wasn’t a common surgery (my eyes required a very specific and rare kind of surgery), and for about 15 years since I became aware of this surgery’s existence, it wasn’t FDA-approved. But on that particular night, after that particular eye doctor had given up on me, I googled it again. To my delight, it had been approved by the FDA just two days earlier. And to my further delight, there was an eye surgeon about five miles from my house who performed the surgery. First thing the next morning, I called him.
Fast forward to this past June. After about 9 months of tests, treatment, poking, prodding, dilating, and staring at a lot of bright lights for a really long time, I woke up early on a Monday morning, drove with Catherine and my brother Matt to a surgery center, and received the gift of clear vision. Just before surgery, the surgeon took my hand and we prayed for each other, and thanked God together for what was about to happen.
I had prayed for God to heal my eyes from the time I was a little boy. I’d kneel in my bed and beg for healing, I would go up for the laying on of hands at different church services or youth retreats and ask for healing, and I’d dream about the day when I could just wake up, open my eyes, and see.
God heard those prayers, and he answered them in his time and in his way, thanks to amazing advancements in eye surgery, and using the hands of a wonderfully kind and compassionate eye surgeon five miles from my house, who just so happens to love Jesus. After making a small incision in each eye, he implanted a lens, and inserted it between my natural lens and iris. I was blind – but then I saw.
The adjustment is still ongoing. I still have to wear glasses to see clearly long-distance. I have significant halos in low-light or nighttime settings. There is still some fine-tuning to do. Maybe some future minor surgeries. I take a few different kinds of drops a few times per day. But the difference between what my vision used to be like – and what it’s like now – is staggering.
I now live with a daily reminder of how God gives vision. Of how God makes the blind see. And of who gets the credit for that vision.
The gift of clear vision was literally implanted into my eyes. It wasn’t something I was born with, it wasn’t something I could acquire on my own, and therefore it’s not something I can boast about. It really is a gift. It came from outside of me. My vision now is not really my vision. Because my natural vision is terrible. My vision now is a supplemented vision. It’s a replaced vision. A restored vision. My natural (i.e. terrible) vision has been made right, thanks to what was implanted.
And isn’t this just how God works in us? He comes to us in a state of deadness, of blindness, of hopelessness, and speaks his life and light into us. Paul put it this way: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Whatever vision we have, whatever knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ that we have, comes from outside from us. It’s surgically implanted. And we don’t get any credit for having it.
And this is applicable for those of us in ministry as well. This is our prayer: That whatever vision we have, whatever clarity we have about a way forward, and whatever calling God has on us at a particular time for a particular people and/or season, is given to us by God. That it comes to us from outside of us. That God plants it in us. He gives the vision, he accomplishes it by his hand, and he gets the glory in the end.
God gives vision. God makes dead people alive, God makes blind people see, God gives vision-less people vision. And because of the life and light that he infuses into us, we walk forward in faith and with praise to him for what he’s done.
The story of my eyes is the same as the story of my (and your) salvation, and of how God sustains us in ministry: “this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8a-9). All glory to one who does for us what we can’t do for ourselves.