Walking By Faith
In ten years of experience as an occupational therapist working with geriatric and stroke patients, I have observed that disruption of vision is one of the most devastating deficits a person can experience. That’s no wonder, since neuroscientists estimate that more than eighty percent of the information we receive about our environment is through the sense of vision. Our brains take in and interpret the information we receive through our eyes. In the same way that we need physical vision to make sense of our world, we also need spiritual vision to effectively navigate through life. This longing for clear spiritual vision is evident as we cry out to God in worship with songs like “Be Thou My Vision” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart.”
I have reflected extensively on the importance of vision because of my family history of eye disease. I have seen first hand how a deficiency in physical eyesight can affect a person. Both my grandmother and my mother were diagnosed with macular degeneration, and because this disease has a strong genetic component, I am a good candidate for developing this condition as well. I do all I can to reduce the odds by taking vitamins specifically designed to slow the process, protecting my eyes in bright sunlight, and paying attention to diet, but am I equally vigilant when it comes to maintaining good spiritual vision? Ensuring our ability to make sense of spiritual matters has far greater consequences than protecting our physical eyes. So how can we maintain 20/20 spiritual vision?
Three primary components of vision are necessary for making sense of our physical world: visual acuity, oculomotor control, and visual field. If any one of these is absent or deficient, we have a difficult time safely interacting with the environment. Acuity enables us to see clearly, oculomotor control directs the eyes toward a particular target, and visual field enables us to see the whole picture. In the same way that these components are necessary to make sense of the physical world, they are also applicable to the spiritual realm. Just as a skilled optician can create the perfect pair of glasses to bring our physical vision to 20/20, God has given us tools to utilize as we journey through life.
We must maintain visual acuity or clarity in our worldview. We can only see clearly from a spiritual standpoint by viewing the world through the lens of God’s Word. Let us not underestimate the importance of being in the Word daily in order to keep from stumbling and falling due to blurry vision. As an occupational therapist, one compensatory strategy I have at my disposal to improve acuity is increasing light. The Bible tells us in Psalm 119:105 that, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (NKJV) Let us as followers of Christ use the application of Biblical wisdom as our strategy to prevent us from stumbling along life’s path. It is only when God’s Word illuminates our way that we can see the obstacles ahead poised to trip us up or cause us to stray off the straight and narrow road. Darkness cannot prevail against the light of God’s Word.
Fixing Our Gaze
When the muscles in our eyes demonstrate good oculomotor control, our gaze is maintained and fixed in the right direction. Weak eye muscles can be retrained and strengthened through tracking exercises in which an individual practices following a target with his eyes. Control of our spiritual muscles is necessary to keep our lives focused appropriately, and they also require training. We must make the conscious decision to only engage in those things which are conducive to our spiritual growth, and divert our gaze away from anything that is not beneficial. Hebrews 12: 2 says we are to run the race while “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith…” (CSB). It is only with Jesus as our target that we are able to safely navigate this world. While it is easy to turn aside and follow worldly passions, we will only keep moving in the right direction as we train ourselves to daily keep our eyes fixed on Him through employing the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study.
We maintain an awareness of all that is going on around us through a functional visual field. One strategy used in cases of visual field deficits is called visual scanning. Through this technique, individuals are trained to be acutely aware of areas of decreased vision, and employ a specific pattern for scanning toward those sections of the visual field. We need to be aware of our deficits spiritually as well and utilize strategies to compensate for our weaknesses. If our spiritual field of vision is deficient, we cannot perceive attacks coming from the enemy. Blind spots in our vision give the enemy an opportunity to assault and isolate us. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (ESV) We must have a strategy to stay vigilant and alert regarding anything or anyone that would enter our world seeking to take away the blessings of life in Christ. Fellowship with other believers can be very helpful in this regard. Others are often able to see things in us that we cannot see in ourselves. Our brothers and sisters in Christ help fill in our blind spots and alert us to areas in which we need to grow.
Toward the end of her ninety-four years on earth, my grandmother lost much of her eyesight as a result of macular degeneration. It was difficult seeing her struggle to do everyday tasks we all take for granted. This disease also robbed her of the ability to do things that she once enjoyed such as reading her Bible, doing crossword puzzles, or playing along with Wheel of Fortune. It was comforting though to see that a physical disease could not steal the joy of the Lord from her life. She continued to walk with Him, allowing the Lord to take her hand and guide her when she couldn’t see the way. That’s the way spiritual eyesight works. We allow God to be our eyes, guiding us to places He’s already been, along a path He created for us, in order to follow His will for our lives. One of my grandmother’s favorite verses was Proverbs 3:5-6 : “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (NKJV) And that is how Nannie was able to function when she all but lost her sight. She put her hand in God’s hand and submitted to his guidance when she couldn’t see the path ahead of her. We would do well to do the same.