“And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ’Do you see ’anything?’ And he looked up and said, ’I see men, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, ’Do not even enter the village’” (Mark 8:22-26).
With my good eye, I saw my daughter sitting next to me in the office chair. She’d been watching over me for the last 24 hours, trying to keep me comfortable despite the inefficient air-conditioning in our hotel room and my need to lie flat on my back, my right eye bandaged from yesterday’s cornea transplant. She looked a little tired, worn out from a long night at a less than stellar hotel and an early appointment with the surgeon.
“It’ll be fine,” I assured her. “I’ll be able to see again.”
The vision in my right eye had declined gradually over the last four years. Diagnosed with Keratoconus when I was nineteen, I had struggled with vision issues for over forty years. Hard contact lenses, thick glasses, hybrid lenses, eye drops, eye strain, two previous transplants, and massive headaches were my companions. Keratoconus, a rare disease of the cornea that makes it disintegrate, causes doubled images, ghosting, blurs, and inaccurate vision. My left eye was only mildly affected with the disease. The vision was, on a good day, 20/60. But the vision in my right eye was another story. In the last eighteen months, the vision had decreased to what ophthalmologists call “fingers only”; if someone stood 10 feet away I could usually tell how many fingers they held up.
My vision made it difficult for me to see to drive and to teach. I also cared for my disabled husband and autistic son. Eye strain was constant, causing fatigue. Light sensitivity limited time I could spend on the computer, awkward since student assignments were submitted on line. And in the last few months, the constant ache in the eye had spread down to my shoulder and I had developed a sensation of “ground glass” as the cornea disintegrated.
My daughter, almost always cheerful, joked, “Well, we survived the hotel room. This will be a piece of cake. Let’s just take a moment and pray about it.”
Only the Book of Mark records the healing of the man born blind at Bethsaida. The fact that Jesus used his saliva to heal the man born blind is interesting to commentators because saliva was considered a healing agent in Biblical times. But as I waited for the doctor to come and remove the bandage from my eye, more important to me was the fact that that event was a miracle in two parts. The man saw imperfectly in verse 24, but then his vision cleared with another touch from Jesus. I had worn glasses or contacts all my life. Without them, the world was a blur, “men walking as trees.” I was anxious to see again, but I knew that proper healing would take time. The doctor had told me that it would be three months before I could expect any real improvement in my vision. And, even then, I would need to wear corrective lenses.
But, like the man from Bethsaida, I was willing to be healed. And I knew that God saw me as an individual with my own needs. Friends who had laser surgery to improve their vision or had cataracts removed told me the improvement was immediate. But I could not compare their experiences with mine: I now had a cornea that had once belonged to someone else.
Would any of the vision in my right eye be restored? During the last evening, as I tried to lie motionless in a very uncomfortable bed, I had attempted to open my eye lid a bit and peek out of the bandages. Did I see light? Or was it only my desire to see light? Either way, sighted or not, I needed to know that God could bring good out of any circumstance, even blindness in my right eye.
My daughter and I prayed.
Dr. Raber entered the office a few moments later, crisp and efficient even at this early hour. He shook hands with both my daughter and me. “The surgery went very well,” he assured us. “Now let’s see what’s happening.” Slowly, he peeled the dressing away from my eye.
What a great moment this would be in a Hollywood movie, I thought. The bandages would be taken off the heroine’s eyes and she would instantly see, cured of her blindness. She would recognize those around her, not be at all bothered by the bright lights she had never seen, and say something trite such as, “How wonderful to see you all!”
But this was not Hollywood.
Once my eye was free from its shield and the coverings, Dr. Raber reached for the prescription drops. Expertly, he put them into my eyes one at a time and handed me a tissue to dab away excess. He examined the eye through a slit lamp and declared that it “looked good.”
“Okay,” said the doctor. “This is it.” He readied the light that projected the Snellen eye chart onto the wall and focused the first letter. “Can you see anything?” he asked gently.
I saw something very blurry. I blinked a few times and the object came more into focus. “E,” I said. “I can see the E. It’s blurry, but I can tell it’s the E.”
To my left, my daughter gave a thumbs-up sign.
“Excellent,” said Dr. Raber. “It will take time, but it looks like it’s healing well.” He told me to make an appointment for the following week, wear protective eye gear at all times, follow his instructions for using all the many eye drops, and continue lying on my back as much as possible for the next two days.
“You saw the E!” said my daughter when we were in the car and on our way home. I nodded. It had been a beautiful sight to see. Even now, my wraparound sunglasses protecting the still fragile cornea and the air bubbles that held it in place, I could see blurs of scenery passing by.
Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Perfect vision is hard to come by in our world. We may see physically, but not see spiritually. We may have many problems caused by our own unbelief. A few verses before Jesus healed the blind man, He had said to His disciples, “Do you have eyes and yet not see what I am saying? (Mark 8:18).” Often, the disciples did not understand what Jesus was teaching them.
And what about me? Many times in the last 40 years, I have not been able to depend on what I see. I spend time petting my son’s cat only to discover it is a gray jacket and stop at a mailbox because I thought an elderly man had fallen. And just recently I remarked to my daughter, “Why are all those people standing at the side of the road?” and she said calmly, “Mom, those are trees.”
Sometimes, I see men walking as trees. But today, I saw the Big E.
And I remembered that “E” is also the fifth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, pronounced Hei, and sometimes used to signify one of the names of God.
E is for Excellent.
E is for Exalt.
E is for Emmanuel.