Is Blindness the End?
Gaining different vision in a different life.
by Beckie Horter
I flung my thick glasses across the cemetery, and they landed quietly in a field. A clap of thunder would have been more appropriate than the silence surrounding us.
“Even these won’t work anymore!” I said bitterly to my husband, as we walked around the cemetery on a humid August evening.
The graveyard. What a fitting backdrop for this apparent ending — the ending of my life. Or so I thought.
“Everything’s going to be different from now on,” my husband said calmly. We walked toward the glasses, and he bent to pick them up. Cleaning them off and making some adjustments, he handed them back to me. I grudgingly put them on. I did need glasses after all.
Everything’s going to be different. Truer words were never spoken!
I had just been given a bad diagnosis. A degenerative retina disease called pathological myopia was erasing my central vision, and no treatment existed.
Both eyes were now affected, and that translated to permanent blurriness straight down the center of my visual field. Because central vision is responsible for distance and detail vision, many adjustments needed to be made.
Of course, it was easy to imagine all the negative ways in which “different” would be true.
Central vision loss meant no more driving.
It meant no more recognizing people — at even a slight distance of a few feet away. Faces looked blurry.
It meant leaving my job as a proofreader and correspondent at the local newspaper.
It meant difficulty reading in stores, doctors’ offices, restaurants, or anywhere else for that matter.
Oh, I can’t do this! I cried to God. It’s too much to ask. I’m only thirty-six years old! I couldn’t imagine spending the next ten minutes with this awful vision, let alone the next thirty (or more) years.
Even though I’d worn glasses from age 6, always being the most nearsighted kid in the class, my vision had always been correctable to 20/20. But not anymore.
With each passing year, my vision worsened and never stabilized. One doctor showed concern when I was 13 and prescribed contact lenses to slow down the changes taking place in my eyes.
Most recently, stretching damage to the back of my eye created cracks through which abnormal blood vessels had grown, bled, and left scar tissue. Although the tissue was removable by surgery, my vision still could not be restored.
Hitting a wall
I had hit a wall with medical options. But even worse, it seemed I hit a wall with life options too.
How does a person go from driving, working, living, and seeing to existing in a blurry haze? What kind of life could a person with low vision (20/200 or worse) have?
I found that out over the next several years as I wrestled with practical matters, like getting around and managing everyday tasks.
My husband started his own business in order to be nearby for the kids and me. God provided a way for us to survive financially and functionally.
But more importantly, God provided a way for me to thrive spiritually.
Before this time, had you asked me if I was a Christian, I would have emphatically answered, “Yes!” I did Christian things: went to church, read the Bible, prayed, and believed in who Jesus is.
After vision loss, however, I cried out to God in total desperation. Brokenness created a new level of need. It cracked open my heart as surely as pathological myopia had cracked open my eyes.
I could not do this blindness thing in my own strength. That much was clear to me as I staggered through the grieving process of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. Then back again. The final stage of the process — acceptance — did not come easily.
One morning while searching the Scriptures, I read Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (NIV).
Brokenhearted and crushed in spirit.
The words jumped off the page and seemed to be written just for me. In that moment, I knew they were true. God was close to me now and had been with me all along. He had comforted me and was calling me to a deeper relationship with Him.
Playing it safe
Then it became clear: I could no longer keep God on the back burner of my life. To be honest, I’d always known God wanted a deeper walk with me. I had witnessed born-again Christians at the college I attended, but I held back out of fear. If I pursued a deeper walk with God, what changes would He bring? What would others think?
So I kept God in my head, while locking the doors of my heart. It felt safer that way.
God continued to speak to me through His Word, however, and I slowly moved toward acceptance. As I studied the Bible, I realized that all human beings are broken, though some don’t recognize it or admit it.
I began to see my visual disability as a blessing because it brought me to the place of need where I finally let God in.
In retrospect, I realize blindness did indeed end a certain way of life: All those feared losses came to pass. But what I didn’t anticipate were the spiritual changes.
How I can be at peace with my awful vision; how I can accept this as God’s will for my life; how I can tell others about my relationship with Jesus: This is truly the work of God’s Spirit (the Comforter) reigning in my heart.
Vision loss needed to happen in order to get my attention. As difficult as trials can be, I’ve discovered God uses them for His glory if we turn to Him in brokenness and repentance. His plans are so much greater than we know!
And there’s joy in obedience. For example, God restored my writing dreams, but this time with a new focus. I now write exclusively for Him. I tell others about the gift of Jesus and encourage them to seek God from their place of need. I also edit devotions for a major women’s ministry.
I could have never imagined this door being opened to me when I left the newspaper. But with God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27).
Is everything different as my husband predicted years ago? For sure!
But what I’ve discovered on this winding path to God is that “different” can be a very good thing indeed!