Saturday, May 30, 2015

Spiritual Glaucoma

"No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays." (Luke 11:33-36 NASB)

We are currently taking a detour through a few diseases of the eye to better understand the importance of clear spiritual vision. Yesterday, we looked at AMD or spiritual Age-Related Macular Degeneration. You can read that post here

Today, we are looking at glaucoma, in which an increase of pressure in the eye causes pressure on the optic nerve at the back of the eye. The front part of the eye contains a clear fluid that normally drains through the open angle, a spongy network where the cornea and iris meet. When the drainage is slowed, the fluid builds up. The extra fluid remaining in the eye causes an increase in pressure that "pinches" the optic nerve. With time, the pressure damages the nerve (connecting the eye with the brain) and causes loss of vision. 

The photo above is an example of the vision loss of glaucoma, in which peripheral vision is lost first, creating a kind of "tunnel vision". The vision loss gradually crowds in until all vision is gone.

The increased pressure can be detected early and treatment begun before vision loss occurs, but it requires an eye exam to detect it and medication (and sometimes surgery) to treat it. 

In that same way, we have a "pressure problem" that can affect our spiritual vision, too. I can write with authority on this subject because it has been a problem for me so often. When our lives are filled with "busyness" and stress, they create a kind of pressure that pinches at our hearts and narrows our relationship with our heavenly Father. Stress creates a kind of tunnel vision of its own, in which all we see is the problem or situation causing our stress. We completely miss all that God is doing in the periphery of our lives. How often this has been the case in my life! 

Dr. Richard Swenson talks about Margin (and has written a best-selling book on the issue). He describes "margin" as the unscheduled places in our lives, the places where God has room to work. When we fill our lives so completely that there is no margin, we not only increase our stress, we decrease the room for God to work in our lives. 

That loss of margin so common in American culture today is a perfect example of "spiritual glaucoma". It demands diagnosis and treatment. Let's take a close look at our own lives. Do we have spiritual glaucoma? 

The first step is diagnosis, but treatment must quickly follow. There is only one remedy, a heart examination, followed by intervention to decrease the pressure. There is no way to keep the stress and exclude all margin while simultaneously decreasing the pressure they cause. What is the remedy?

Some years ago, I was considering a position of leadership with an organization about which I deeply cared. The man who spoke with me explained that it would take quite a bit of time. "Your "plate" is too full. There's not room for this, too," he cautioned. In the end, I did accept the position but it required that I take my "plateful of busyness" to the cross and relinquish it. The thing that still amazes me is that those activities I most loved and that gave me the greatest joy were allowed to remain. It was the things that "sucked the life out of me" that needed to go. Making the change was, in the end, immensely satisfying, because it restored margin and improved my spiritual vision.

What about our lives today? Are we so busy that we have developed tunnel vision, seeing only those tasks that must be done? When we lose our margin because of schedule overload, we also limit our relationship with God and our spiritual vision. We miss what God is doing around us because we are so focused on what we must accomplish to survive our busyness. 

Today, let's evaluate our lives for the spiritual glaucoma of busyness and stress, then take action to reduce the pressure. Let's make sure we make time to spend with our Heavenly Father and focus on the things that please Him first. When we do, we will see the world and the people around us with clarity and can better respond with love.

"Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord. We want to see Jesus."