Dr. Esther Bowie, my diabetic retina specialist at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, looked me straight in my one good eye and said, “You need to have surgery and have it soon in that left eye.” My wife, Joyce, was in the room with me. How could I fight two women? I had no choice but to acquiesce and agree to the surgery. Little did they know that behind my back I had my fingers crossed.
I had put off surgery for four months. After all, it was just a bleed due to a hemorrhage from thirty eight years of living with Type 1 diabetes, injections, and blood testing four times a day. The dried blood left me blind in that eye.
I had had the same thing happen in my right eye, and after a few months, the blood dissipated, giving me about 98% vision in that eye. I could drive, read, and watch television. NO! I wasn’t going to have surgery.
The idea of needles poked into my eye and making an incision into the eye to take out the dried blood in the vitreous fluid and replacing it with an artificial fluid caused me to wince in horror. I would wait it out. I prayed and prayed. Others prayed for me. Didn’t Jesus spit into the dirt, made a mud patch, and put it on the blind man’s eye, and the blind man saw (Mark 8:23-25)?
Dr. Bowie called the pre-op department. I left and went immediately for the pre-op appointment. The surgery was scheduled for Thursday, October 9,
On the way home, I grew more and more anxious and depressed. During my devotion time the next morning, I prayed again and decided not to have the surgery. The Lord will heal. I knew He would.
That was Saturday. At church on Sunday, I told my congregation during prayer request time that I wasn’t sure I was going through with the operation .Every single one said that I should have the operation. B. J. Reese, our keyboardist, even asked that the Lord give Joyce a big stick to get after me and make me have the surgery. Their love, compassion, and prayerful support led me to assure them that I would go through with it. Besides, Joyce swings a nasty stick.
The anesthesiologist came in and started the IV. The last thing I remember is wheeling through the double doors into the surgery suite and seeing Dr. Bowie.
I woke up to voices from the surgical team. I felt Dr. Bowie probing around in my eye but didn’t feel any pain. The shot in the eye given while I was knocked out deadened the eye ball. I thought, “Hey, this isn’t bad at all. Nothing to it!”
I asked Rob, the student intern, “Had you ever done one of these before?” He told me that he had not, but that he had to be proficient in this operation before he finished his course of study.
Dr. Bowie said in a nice way, “Pastor, be quiet and still. I’m trying to do some work here.” I promise you that there was not another peep from me. It wasn’t long before she said, “I’m almost finished.. Rob will sew up the incision.”
In fifteen minutes, I was sitting in a chair. In another fifteen minutes, I was walking out of the hospital and heading home. Amazing! Absolutely Amazing! Dr. Bowie did the entire tedious operation looking through a microscope. I only had to take two Tylenol on Friday and two again on Saturday for pain. That was it.
Now, here is where the grace of God comes in. The doctor explained that once she got into the back of the eye, she discovered that the bleed was not from diabetic retinopathy but from a retinal tear. She had done an ultrasound on previous appointments trying to determine if the retina was torn or detached, but there was too much blood to look through to make an accurate diagnosis.
She said, “By God’s grace, somehow the retina tear stopped and the retina did not detach. If the retina had detached and too much time elapsed, you would have permanent blindness in your left eye.”
To repair the tear, the doctor inserted a gas bubble and used laser treatment. She said the gas bubble would dissipate and vision would clear and return to normal in a week to ten days.
I asked her if diabetes was responsible for the retina tear. She answered that it occurs mostly in people over age 50, and that the diabetes had little or nothing to do with it. I was relieved that diabetes was not the cause of the problem and jolted again into the reality that I am on the down hill side.
What a precious gift our eyesight is, and how I took it for granted. This Thanksgiving for the first time in many, many months, I will be able to sit down at the feast and see everyone and everything clearly. I thank the Lord, my wonderful Christian doctor, my church, my family, friends and my wife for prayers and encouragement,.
And you know, the good Lord has given us two sets of eyes. With one set, we see the beautiful sunrise, the rainbow, the brilliance of Fall, our children and grandchildren. We can read, write, watch television, and drive an automobile.
With the other set of eyes, we can see beyond the rainbow into the unseen world. These are the eyes of faith, and it is really not hard to see with these eyes.
Dr. Bowie told me the risks and the rewards of eye surgery. She described in detail everything about the procedure and what I could expect after the operation. For a long time, I simply couldn’t make myself undergo the operation. That delay could have easily cost me my sight. But, I believed her, trusted her, and submitted to her. I was blind, but now I see! It is the reward of faith and obedience in following her instructions after the surgery with the help of my attentive wife. I had to have three sets of eye drops four times a day , sleep in a chair with my head up, not lift anything heavy, cancel a trip to Athens with my brother to see the Georgia vs Tennessee game, and cancel our long planned Fall weekend trip to the North Carolina mountains. These were all such small things to give up compared to the glory of restored eyesight.
That’s the way it is with seeing the unseen world too. The Scripture tells us to trust and believe. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).
The risk of believing is that we have to sacrifice and let go of our pride and self-centered way and admit that we are helpless to see the unseen without a radical operation of grace from Christ who forgives our sins and unites us in a love relationship with the heavenly Father. We submit and humble ourselves under the skilled hand of the Great Physician, our Lord Jesus. Eyes that didn’t see begin to see a new world - a world where God is sovereign Creator, Redeemer, and the Rock of our salvation. We have eyes to see that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
The Scripture describes those who only have one set of eyes that do not see beyond their physical senses. “Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures ..With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning” (2 Peter 2:13-14 NIV). Those kind of eyes filled with lust and greed will never see the significance of the cross or the glories of heaven.
On the other hand, here is a prayer that the Apostle Paul prays for you and me to see with our second set of eyes. “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength” (Ephesians 1:18-19 NIV).
I am so blessed to be able to see again. Yet, I know these eyes will again cloud over, the earth will grow dim, and one day they will close forever to the beauty of the people and earthly sights that surround me. When these eyes close for the last time, my second set of eyes will open and see clearly as never before the wonders and joys of the unseen world that will never fade.
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
- Helen Howarth Lemmel 1863-1961
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV).