Learning to See Again

The last few years have been quite eventful. The weeks running up to Christmas were fairly calm.
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A holiday.
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Getting into the rhythm of work and rest.
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Getting glasses.
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This time last year the shape of my week looked very different. Commuting over an hour and a half each way each day to work with some amazing people. Now I commute about 45 minutes each way a day to work with a different bunch of amazing people. Sunday involved a commute too – a few stops up the District Line to HTB Church in South Kensington.
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One of the things that stuck in my head the most from our time at HTB was a story Nicky Gumbel told about getting the right pair of glasses. He described – with much hilarity – the difference it made to his sight and to life. He likened the process to becoming a Christian, learning to see again. Seeing people and ideas with different eyes, with more clarity and colour.
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I’d always been relatively proud of my apparently above average eyesight. Seeing the windward mark on the Solent before the rest of a crew hanging over the side of a boat. Reading signs on streets a hundred paces away in order to give the nonchalant impression that I knew where I was going. Reading the fine print on posters and enjoying the momentary distraction from whatever I might otherwise have been preoccupied with. Reading road signs on motorways before my siblings, which was a pretty effective way of ‘winning’ as a child in the eternally competitive world of long distance car journeys.
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So, you can imagine, it was slightly embarrasing to have to get glasses. Yet at the same time, as those who know me well might recognise, I was also secretly quite pleased.
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My new glasses have not yet changed my life.
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They have however, transformed how I see things. I squint less while wandering around town. I occasionally trip over objects that are closer than they appear. But the big change, the sea change, is seeing small things. I mean this in two ways. Firstly, these new glasses put things in proportion, in perspective, in a fascinating way. The day I picked them up from specsavers. I went to browse in a nearby bookshop and media shop. Books and DVDs seemed so small – yet in better definition, better clarity. Secondly, I can see things coming, things in the distance, without squinting. This makes driving more enjoyable – and wandering around exhibitions or singing at church easier. I can see better – even if I didn’t recognise that I needed to.
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Like Nicky’s observation about getting new glasses reminding him of the radical shift that becoming a Christian initiates in us, getting glasses for the first time has made me think about how I explain my faith to people. I could live without my faith – but I honestly believe I would live a smaller, shorter, less rich life. I could allow my faith to only impact some things – but I would end up squinting, not seeing things as they really are, not really enagaging with reality as it actually is, rather than as I might selfishly and sinfully percieve it. If you’ve ever wondered about how to explain the way that following Jesus makes a difference, perhaps the perspective of it changing how you see everything is helpful. I’m reminded of a snippet of a story about Jesus, with which I’ll close:
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On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity”. Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God” (Luke 13:10-13)
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I love this story. The miracle is wonderful. The healing is profound. The freedom implied is breathtaking. But I love the little detail in the pivot;
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When Jesus saw her
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How could you learn to see again?
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