A little while ago I trialled some contact lenses for the first time in twenty-odd years of wearing glasses and it was an interesting experience.
I have an astigmatism which is particularly pronounced in one eye – basically meaning that instead of being perfectly spherical, the eye is rather more rugby shaped (not that you can tell this from just looking!). What I discovered is that you may be able to correct the short-sightedness, but if you don’t correct the right degree of astigmatism, the world is just that little bit out of focus.
Using both eyes together, I could still read the letters to the equivalent of the number plate test for drivers, which is apparently 20/20 vision. So I walked away from the opticians with my trial lenses in (with standard degrees of astigmatism corrected, but not exactly the same as I required). I felt a little confused as I’d always thought that 20/20 meant perfect vision, so it was strange to find that everything out of one eye was slightly ‘off’! I found I could drive perfectly well thankfully, but close reading and working at the PC was really hard going. In a sense, I could manage the big picture, but not the detail.
It all made me think about vision, and how we see things in life; how being a tiny bit off in terms of focus can make a subtle, but important difference. Now, in my situation I noticed it quite obviously, but what about when we’ve got used to seeing things a certain way? We may go to the opticians, be presented with a brand new pair of specs and suddenly the world is crystal clear – almost jarringly clear. You may find that things seem almost to leap out at you, they’re so crisp! And yet until our sight is measured against an accepted standard of perfect sight, often we have no idea that our sight has deteriorated at all. All too often it’s the headaches that come with eyestrain that persuade us to finally go for a sight test. So really it’s the symptoms, not the cause that we want to get fixed. How many of us try to avoid wearing our glasses, we’d rather squint and peer instead of facing up to the correction we need, and dealing with our vanity of course!
So, what about our vision of the world, of life, of ourselves – could that be subtlety ‘off’? And how would we know? After all, it’s so easy isn’t it, to point the finger at others and say, how could their perceptions be so warped (think, young girls – fashion industry – heroin chic – anorexia vs a healthy weight, as just one example that springs to mind). It’s so much more comfortable to cast our beady eye on others, rather than look at ourselves. (I know this, I’m married! I’m sure all spouses find that their other half, just needs to do x, for y to be fixed!). It’s not desperately surprising, since the enemy comes to deceive, kill and destroy (John 10:10), and when we’re deceived, we don’t know we are deceived – that’s the whole point!
What standard are we measuring ourselves against? Our friends, our family, our neighbours (the ones with the bigger house and nicer car!), the media, FaceBook??
There are things I’m sure we can all agree are wrong. For instance when someone has an affair we generally know and accept that it’s wrong, but what about the things that are merely a degree or two off? Think of the phrase ‘a bit of harmless flirting’. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of the after effects of their husband or wife starting off with some ‘harmless’ fun or escapism (and ending in an affair, a broken marriage and devastated children) will tell you: it is anything but harmless.
This isn’t about condemnation – since we know there is ‘no condemnation in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1-2) – we already have a heavenly judge so there is no need for us to take on that responsibility (unless we want to be judged by the Lord as harshly as we judge others!).
Matthew 7:1-7 (NIV), “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
If you have a clear vision for your life, your marriage, your work, your children – how much more likely are you to keep a razor-sharp focus on your dreams and goals? You’re that much more likely to say no to unhelpful distractions and ‘harmless’ dalliances (whether flirting with the opposite sex, or long stints whiling the hours away on the Internet procrastinating).
Remember that the ship that sets its navigation systems out by just one degree, ends up miles and miles off course over time…unless somebody, somehow notices the error and corrects it!
I know I need to keep checking that my vision is clear and recheck my own bearings, catch hold of that errant-thinking, and reset my course. How do I know I’m getting off track? I’m seriously blessed to be part of a large vibrant church, where the sermons don’t pull any punches (as my husband said this last week!), and where I find myself regularly challenged, hearing the Word brought alive and applied to my life. I find myself humbled and reminded of where I am missing the mark, in the light of God’s perfect goodness and love. Thankfully this is all in a supportive context, where, through prayer and study, I can get back on track.
We all fall far short on a daily basis, but at least we know where we’re heading, and we can be glad to know that the Holy Spirit is equipping and transforming us as we go, to be ever more Christ-like.
What is your vision for your life? If your goals are already clear, how will you ensure your course is set for success? Is there a reliable standard you can check yourself against? What would it be like if Jesus were your measure?