I had my second cataract surgery today. I tolerated it for about two years, but it just became too difficult to see. I was, essentially, using my good eye for everything. I became pretty adept at mono-vision, thank you very much. But enough was enough. Jan finally wearied of watching me hold things too close, or fiercely squint at the television.
Cataract surgery is surreal. I lay there, fully awake, as my eye was prepped, anesthetized, opened and the cataract vibrated into tiny bits then gently removed. Before I knew it, I had a shiny new lens where before I was seeing the world through cellophane; wrinkled at that.
When I left the surgery center, it was with a face painted in yellow betadine, and enormous black, wrap-around sunglasses. I had to stop and wait in Wal-Mart while my wife and kids helped load boxes for our church food-bank.
There I sat, 48 years old, sitting in giant wrap-around glasses, waiting on the bench just inside Wal-Mart, an unlikely impersonator of a retiree (with all due respect). The only thing lacking was any sort of anesthesia hangover.
It’s about 12 hours after my surgery now. My vision is remarkable. Despite a little swelling and blurring, to be expected, I have clear sight where before there were blurry shapes.
Oh, I have been the recipient of gifts. The gift of my wife Jan and her concern. The gift of access to a skilled surgeon(thanks to Dr. Scott Massios of Blue Ridge Eye Center in Seneca, SC) . The gift of technology that is, in its own way, a kind of miracle; diffused slowly through science rather than suddenly via Messiah or saint. Miraculous nonetheless.
And I have the gift of insight and new sight. While I’ll need reading glasses for life, while I had to undergo surgery, I know what it is not to see. I comprehend the blurring uncertainty of bad vision. I grasp the spiritual metaphor as well.
The Bible says it so beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13: ‘for now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.’ You can also understand that to say, ‘but then with utter clarity.’
Of course, John Newton had a similar experience, whether or not the old redeemed slaver ever had cataracts. ‘Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.‘
In the end, our physical ailments are perhaps best understood as the hammers and chisels that shape and carve away the excess and unsightly, and give us the eternal shape hidden beneath by our artist. Or, more to the current point, they are the scalpels that remove the blindness from our eyes forever.
If I gain nothing else from my cataract surgeries, that is enough.