Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Vision Thing, Feb. 2008

The Vision Thing

Clarity came just as things got blurry.

Al Hsu posted 2/21/2008 08:57AM

My vision has never been good. I've worn eyeglasses since second grade and contact lenses since high school. Once during a Little League game, a line drive smacked me right on the nose, splitting my glasses' plastic frames neatly in half. My vision was so bad that at optometrists' exams, the only letter I could see on the eye chart was the big E—and then only because I knew it was an E.

For several years, I pondered whether I should have laser surgery to correct my vision. Friends and colleagues gave the procedure glowing reviews, and I read positive testimonies on websites and blogs. My main stumbling block was justifying the cost. Was it a vanity expense, like a facelift or a tummy tuck? But after losing yet another contact, I calculated that I'd spent enough money on lost lenses, contact fluid, and other supplies that it might be better stewardship to get my vision corrected.

Last year, I took the plunge. Encouraged by a 25 percent-off coupon given to me by a friend, I went ahead and had the surgery. My corneas were too thin for the normal slice-a-flap procedure, so I underwent a different procedure (which was more expensive, of course).

It didn't quite take. The doctor said that when you throw a football from 50 yards, it's harder to be on target than it is from 5 yards. My vision had been something like 20/400, and he was able to bring it to 20/40—tantalizingly close to clear vision, but still fuzzy.

The doctor scheduled follow-up "enhancement" procedures. For the next several months, my vision remained in an in-between state, far better than it had been for decades, but still not quite as sharp as I would have liked. I sat closer to my computer screen and increased the zoom on Microsoft Word to 125 percent. When I spoke at a conference, my notes were punched up to a 16-point font size.

Then I happened to attend an InterVarsity Asian American staff conference. During corporate worship, I squinted to make out lyrics on the far wall. In one particular session, we sang "God of Justice":

Live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward
Keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

I closed my eyes as we repeated the chorus, praying that God would direct me. How might I move into action? I live in such a cerebral world of books and ideas—what might I do to become more active in pursuing global mission?

The song cycled back to an earlier verse, and I opened my watering eyes. The lyrics on the screen shimmered slightly, then came crisply into focus.

I could see. Clearly. Wow. I could read every word easily, without squinting.

Had God just healed me? My innards fluttered, and I suddenly understood all those clich├ęs about feeling your heart race and pound. Had I just experienced a miracle?

I blinked several times, and my vision wavered back and forth. Clear, blurry, clear, blurry. Then I realized what was happening. While singing I had been tearing up, moved by God's call, and the thin layer of water on my eyeballs functioned like contact lenses. The tears had been making my vision clearer.

I immediately asked a friend to pray with me for clarity of vision, both literally and spiritually. There is so much I do not see. I am blind to the needs of my neighbors down the block and around the world. I do not see the plight of the enslaved child laborer, the trapped sex worker, the communities wracked by aids or genocide, the people around the world who still lack witness to the gospel.

I do not act because I do not see. I am blinded by insularity, privilege, and affluence, which give me the luxury of having laser surgery when countless millions around the world lack basic medical care. But when God moves me to tears, I begin to see more clearly. And I have a clearer vision for how he calls me to participate in his work as an agent of shalom at home and around the world.

I've now had follow-up enhancements on my eyes, and my vision clocks in at 20/20 for each individual eye and 20/15 when using them together. I'm grateful. But I hope that God will continue to make my eyes water for the sake of his kingdom. I suspect that I will never see as clearly as I do when I have tears in my eyes.

Copyright © 2008 Christianity Today. This article first appeared in the February 2008 issue of Christianity Today. Used by permission of Christianity Today International, Carol Stream, IL 60188. Click for reprint information.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Kingdom Sightings

This blog serves as an online archive or parking space for my "Kingdom Sightings" columns from Christianity Today magazine. Managing editor Mark Galli said this when introducing the column:

"A new CT columnist who's a sign of the church's lively present is Al Hsu (pronounced Shee). Al begins his column "Kingdom Sightings" (page 76) in this issue. He is an associate editor at InterVarsity Press and author of a number of books, including The Suburban Christian: Finding Spiritual Vitality in the Land of Plenty (2006), which Publishers Weekly called "a thoughtful critique of what living Christianly in the suburbs should look like." We have followed Al's writings for some time, including his blog, http://thesuburbanchristian.blogspot.com, and we're excited that he will be able to join us as a columnist this year."