Thursday, May 28, 2015

Spiritual Macular Degeneration

"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 taking another detour, this time through a few eye diseases, to help us understand the importance of clear spiritual vision. Today's topic is the eye disease known as Age-related Macular Degeneration. (AMD)

AMD is, as the name implies, a problem that can develop as we age. It causes damage to the macula, the area of the retina that is responsible for clear central vision. The macula allows us to see things that are straight ahead of us. AMD does not usually cause total blindness, but a loss of central vision that can be very debilitating. If you look at the photo above, you can see that the entire photo is blurred but the face of the child (the central portion of the photo) is especially blurred.

We can develop a kind of spiritual AMD, as well. When we do, we lose our central focus. I know this is true, because I've had spiritual AMD a few times. Maybe you have, too. When I allow sin into my life, whether by overt acts or by the drifting that comes with busyness, I lose my focus and my clarity of vision. It seems that, almost overnight, my heart of faith is clouded by hazy vision. Most debilitating, however, is that my central vision, the part of my heart that focuses on God alone, becomes deeply impaired.

The best treatment for AMD is prevention, and the National Eye Institute recommends four important lifestyle changes that can help prevent the vision loss of AMD.
~ Avoid smoking
~ Exercise regularly
~ Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
~ Eat a healthy diet rich in green leafy vegetables and fish

If we apply those recommendations to the prevention of spiritual AMD, they might look something like this:
~ Avoid sin
~ Exercise your faith regularly
~ Spend time in prayer to keep your perspective balanced
~ Ingest the Word of God through Bible study 

Years ago, someone very close to me was diagnosed with AMD and was referred to a retina specialist in Memphis. I can still recall that visit. Her physician was very clear about her options. "The only good study on prevention of macular degeneration showed that people who eat a diet high in spinach and dark green leafy vegetables had significantly lower rates of AMD. The best prevention is spinach at least four times a week." This dear woman's response was, "I don't like spinach," and she opted for oral vitamins, instead. As her disease progressed, she became more willing to eat dark green, leafy vegetables, but I grieved that she waited so long to do the one thing that might have helped. 

If we want to have a life that is filled with clarity of vision and the ability to see the One who should be at the center of our lives, we must do what is necessary to keep our vision clear. The bad news about AMD is that the majority of cases cannot be reversed. Prevention truly is the best treatment. The good news about Spiritual Macular Degeneration is that the prevention steps are also the steps that are the cure. 

If our spiritual sight is clouded, our central vision is obscured, there is a cure. We can turn from that which impairs our focus and return to the One on whom we should be focused. In an instant, our Spiritual AMD can be changed to clear vision and fill our hearts with light.

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