One of the notable aspects of aging is the concern with one’s vision. Since childhood I have been nearsighted, often severely so, likely as a result of my intense reading habits from youth. Many people my age and older, though, find it necessary to have bifocals or even trifocals as a means of coping with the combination of near-sightedness and far-sightedness that makes it hard to see at any distance well with a single prescription.
This past Sabbath our pastor gave a sermon that looked at various physical types of blindness and then examined their spiritual equivalents. What I would like to do here is to briefly discuss on the way that spiritual nearsightedness and farsightedness are two sides of the same coin in spiritual matters just as they are in spiritual matters, and that often we struggle with both simultaneously and are thus in need of spiritual bifocals, even if that is a concession to our own increasing sense of blindness in more than one way.
Nearsightedness and farsightedness are two sides of a coin. Physically, that is obvious enough to see, in that the eye is misshapen and so sees either close things well or far things well and fails in the other. Obviously, the eye is supposed to see things over a wide range of distances well and we put ourselves in considerable danger when our eyes go to one extreme or another, which requires a fair amount of correction in either lenses or surgery.
Spiritually, though, the same is the case. Spiritual nearsightedness is a focus on the self to the extent that hinders our awareness and knowledge of the outside world. Self-absorption is certainly something a lot of us are certainly vulnerable too. Similarly, spiritual farsightedness is seeing the outside world but failing to connect it to one interior life. This is similarly something that many of us are vulnerable to, in that we can see what is wrong with the world at large or ourselves, or be intensely knowledgeable about an aspect of orthopraxy (that is, right conduct), and spectacularly fail to recognize that we fail to live up to standards we know and hold others to. This is lamentably all too common.
The solution, of course, to both problems is to put on spiritual bifocals and to recognize that one is simultaneously nearsighted and farsighted. This is true for many of us physically and spiritually and making a concession to age is sometimes all too necessary. When we focus on ourselves too much and fail to see the outside world and see the outside world without drawing the connections between the behaviors we see and abhor and also simultaneously practice, the solution is to connect the two together. From looking out we see an external standard, and from self-examination we see the state of our own spiritual existence. And ultimately we need to see both the outside world and we ourselves if we are to follow God and serve others effectively. We need to know what is present in ourselves that needs to be provided to others as an aspect of service, as well as to know what aspects of what is around us that serve to bring our spiritual state into greater focus. Sometimes we just need a bit of help to do it well.