"Where there is no vision the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law." Proverbs 29:18
This time last year, I was preaching from a large print Bible and wondering if the next step was going to be a family Bible with a wheel barrow attachment. I was gradually losing my sight. Reading, one of my favorite things to do, was a daily struggle and a constant reminder that something was wrong. Driving at night was a blur of confusing lights and narrowed vision. What was wrong needed to be made right.
Dana scheduled me for an exam at a local opthamologist/optometrist (Not sure which. Don't judge me. Remember I couldn't see very well.), and find out if he could help me. After a thorough look at both eyes, he informed me I had cataracts. I responded that I was too young to have them. He responded with a cheerful, "Happy Birthday!"
The next step was to find a surgeon who could remove the cataracts and restore my vision. I met with a highly respected doctor in Dallas, who had a soft spot in his heart for preachers and world class athletes. His waiting room walls were covered from testimonials from a wide variety of sports heros, broadcasters and musicians. I began to search for place to put mine. When he looked at the reports provided to him by his associates, he remarked that I had some very serious cataracts. I told him I was having tough time reading my Bible. He wryly commented on how that isn't a good thing for a preacher. Someone had blown my cover.
During our 45 minute conversation, he revealed that he had been memorizing the Book of James. I was impressed. He admitted it was easier to memorize than it was to exercize. I was beginning to like this guy. He revealed his wife pointed out on occasion that he was a better Christian at home than he was at work. He confessed he had alot of trouble with the part about, "Consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials." In an effort to be transparent without being invisible, I agreed.
Have you ever thought of something clever to say after a conversation had ended? I wish I had said, "Although James delivered a tough word, it was not an impossible assignment. If it couldn't be done, we wouldn't have been told to do it. God does the impossible in us. He doesn't expect the impossible from us." Anway, I just said to him, "It is easier to preach it than to live it."
When I asked him what causes cataracts he told me to blame my dad. Something from the gene pool gets passed on from one generation to the other. It is gradual, and subtle. It is usually revealed by the mid-to-late fifties. My father later confirmed that he had the same issue with his eyes about the same age. His dad, my grandfather, had the same health history. What a legacy.
The result of the good doctor's analysis was the scheduling of two operations, one in December and the other in January. This resulted in a restoration of sight and a clarity of vision in each eye. The successful surgery allowed me to have the restriction of corrective lenses removed from my driver's license. I could see colors clearly for the first time in years. I had not been aware of how much I was missing. It was a transformation of biblical proportions. "I once was blind, but now I see ;" held a new meaning for me.
Proverbs equates vision with a "revelation." God revealed The Law was to Moses and he brought it to the people. God did not give The Law to squeeze the joy out of His people, but to give them what they need for a happy life. Good news. Good times.
When Moses brought the tablets down from the mountain, I am pretty sure some cynic mumbled in the crowd, "Not another vision statement!" Vision statements became fashionable among churches in the late 20th Century. Every church had to have one. They were easier to form than they were to keep. They rarely turned death-defying mausolems into life-giving movements of God.
What Moses saw when he gave the people the law was an unrestrained people. Sheep without a shepherd to help them see where they are going are prone to wander. God released The Law and the people unleashed their lawlessness. What God meant to help them, they considered a hindrance to them. Receiving the law of God, and keeping the law of God are too different things. My surgeon discovered that to be true in memorizing the Book of James.
Jesus had a two word Vision Statment: "Make Disciples." This vision is essential for a Christ follower. The church is meant to be a Vision Center for people who want to see God at work in their lives and in the lives of others. It is not a haven for the blind leading the blind, or the bland excusing the bland. Vision comes from God. Proverbs reminds us that it is a revelation, and that His vision for us, is the only way to a happy life.
Examining ourselves based on the two word eye chart Jesus uses is the only way to know if we are losing our sight of what is important to Him. Even those of us who have been around a while need to have our vision checked on a regular basis. Christ's chart is found in His Word. When we lose sight of His Word in our lives we start losing our sense of direction and our awareness of what He is up to in His World. We begin to lower our standards to fit what we have made of life rather than the receive the life He offers to us. When begin to compromise, we lose the clear distinctions between right and wrong. Black and white becomes a hazy gray when our vision is clouded.
The church is God's Vision Center. It is not valuable to God for its death-defying survival, but for life-giving transparency. The church was meant to equip people to take the log out of their own eye before trying to take a speck out of a brother's eye. Christ followers look on others with a generous eye, not an evil eye. Green-eyed jealousy, envy and covetousness are marks of person who has a vision problem. Instead of passing on to the next generation a blurry vision of what you may have received from the gene pool of the past, cover your bad eye and please read the following chart.