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What you see is what you get.

The competition was for $10,000 and all the competitors had to do was some simple little stuff like cut their way out of a tank full of water while they held their breath and used little hand tools they’d made, escape by digging under or scaling over a series of 10 foot fences, and the easiest one of all was to hang upside down for an hour while they figured out how to open six safes which held parts of the gun they would assemble to shoot the rope holding their feet. So it was nothing very challenging or out of the ordinary. Life feels like this for some of us everyday. But one of the competitors had lost an eye years ago. He’d compensated by body- building so the kids who had made fun of him growing up were now very careful to be his friends and limit themselves to only saying nice things about him.  It’s good to be surrounded by sensible people who give you respect. However, only having one eye produced interesting side-effects like finding it hard to judge distances and worst of all, when you get something in your eye there is no back-up. He got something in his eye and no matter how much energy he exerted from that point, he was unable to focus enough of it to complete the tasks. Kudos for competing and doing so well! He showed guts and real grit. But that vision thing really matters and there’s no substitute.

Ted Williams earned his place in the baseball hall of fame by hitting baseballs more than anyone else. He set the record at .406 and just to make the point, he was still hitting .388 sixteen years later. Unlike hanging upside down for an hour and then firing a gun you just assembled at your own feet, this super-hitting of baseballs is serious business. Everyone’s been puzzled about how he did it so well. I know the answer! It was on cable last week so

An image of Major League Baseball hall of fame...

Image via Wikipedia

it must be authoritative and reliable. Apparently Ted’s problem was that he didn’t see things like other folks do. He had eyes and he used them the same way we do but he didn’t see what we see. The presenter claimed that Ted had 20/10 vision which must be an upgrade from 20/20 or 20/whatever it is that the rest of us suffer from.  Cutting through the intricate scientific explanations, the argument goes that Ted could see stuff that was further away more clearly and this gave him more time to react. Combine more time with creative techniques and impressive eye/hand coordination, a carefully tuned and balanced bat of the correct weight and voila, super-hitter. Did we mention long hours of practice, total focus, hours of training (they didn’t have the help of steroids back in those days so they had to do it the old-fashioned way), turning up at games, facing the scariest pitchers you can imagine (all bent on taking you out in the worst possible way) and . . . anyway, we have the idea. What he saw affected what he did and how well he did it. If he’d been blind he would have needed to make his name in some other activity.

We talk about having vision and making an impact in life on other people. We’re not sure exactly what that means but it sounds good so we talk about it. When some folks talk about their vision for life they string a lot of nice sounding words together but their lives look a lot like everyone else’s and they aren’t doing anything different. Perhaps they visited for some words and phrases that sound impressive but that’s not vision. When the blind lead the blind the outcome is inevitable. People with vision actually see what is around them and that affects what they do. It changes their lives. There’s a fascinating account of a guy who was born blind. Folks weren’t inclined to help him much so he was forced to beg to keep body and soul together. He got by but his life wasn’t going in a fantastic direction; it was hard work this begging. One day Jesus walked past him and noticed him. The yucky part is that he spat in the dirt and made some mud to put on the blind guy’s eyes, then told him to go wash it off. Maybe if you are blind you are not so fussy about how your mud is prepared but the guy went and washed it off. His problem was soon revealed when he realized he could do something he’d never done before – see. We think of this a being such a natural thing but we forget that this guy had never seen before. He was trained to count steps and feel walls, he was used to having to rely on others to point him in the right direction and help him find things. He’d never seen his mother before (imagine if he didn’t like what he saw!). Everything was new to him. The way he’d learned to “see” the world was now being challenged in every possible way. He was into mental overload. Old ways would have to be forgotten and he would have to learn new ways. Or he could shut his eyes and carry on life as before, avoiding the uncertainty and fear of too much information. Better the familiar than the unknown! No vision was a problem he’d learned to solve as best he could. No one would expect much from him because he was blind. Maybe it would be better to stay that way and keep dealing with low expectations. We know that the “right” answer is that you are supposed to be able to see and use your eyes but we’re also familiar with the saying, “There is none so blind as he who will not see.” There are some things we’d rather not see. There are things we’d rather not know.  So the guy had a choice, he could take this gift of vision and run with it or he could try to lose it and return to “normal.” Running with it was going to irrevocably change his life. Nothing would ever be the same again. New responsibilities, new opportunities, new understanding and a whole new order were rushing his way. What to do? Old habits die hard and most of us do our level best to avoid change. Maybe if we are honest for a split second we might admit that there are things in our lives that we prefer to not see or see only a little. Suppose for a moment that we suddenly saw that we have been called and empowered to change the world into a better place; the ramifications are enormous! We would be immediately challenged to change radically the way we live and the things we do. Our priorities and habits would be forced to change.  No more excuses for under-performance or for merely goofing off. When we can see, our world-view changes and our lifestyle is required to change with it. Everything we have learned is up for reinterpretation and reconsideration. Vision makes all the difference. No one who claims to have had a spiritual revelation wants to admit they have no vision – that would be one of those oxymoron things since to receive a revelation implies we have the ability to actually see it. But if there is no change in behavior the choices are simple: a) they did not see anything and are still blind; b) they did see something but prefer to avoid the change they are now capable of; or c) it’s all a bunch of pretty words designed to win social acceptance in the club. If they really saw something they would not be able to avoid being changed by it. The blind man saw and embraced the changes sight brought. What do we see?


Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.  Sir Cecil Beaton


You can read the account of the blind man in the Bible in the book of John chapter 9. There’s no doubt he could see and his life was irrevocably changed.


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