Saturday, January 10, 2015

Lessons about Life's Blind Spots

I attended a forum today at the local university. I will be honest, while it applies loosely to my educational training, the real reason for leaving the house this morning was not the topic of the forum. It was simply to get out of the house. The world of isolation and the cold of winter are both getting me down. That said, I am glad I went. The forum's topic was issues of the global church and, more broadly, issues of cross-cultural understanding. In short, we need each other. We need the perspectives that can be gained only through community.

As I listened, I knew two things:
1. These presenters had known the rawness of life. They have learned to walk when things are difficult and the weight seems too burdensome to bear.

While that is not surprising, I discovered that, because of our time in the NICU, I could relate to their stories in a new way. I learned these lessons in the NICU and they learned these lessons across the globe, but the way we responded -- the way God led us when things were bleakest and we had no more of our own strength -- were so similar. Their experiences resonated with one another, and with mine. I was nourished.

2. Jonathan's life can speak to our understanding of the world around us. Particularly, his vision helps me understand my own vision. So, in the "Lessons Learned through a Micro-Preemie" spirit of this blog, as I listened, I penned these thoughts.

As you, the blog reader, know, when my son was just a few months old, he was diagnosed with the worst form of retinopathy of prematurity, called Rush ROP, or Aggressive Posterior Retinopathy of Prematurity.  The vessels in his eyes were not growing correctly, and left untreated, his retina would become detached and he would become blind. The surgery to preserve his central vision would come with a cost, though. The scars the lasers left would limit or eliminate his periphery vision.

As you also know, the surgery worked. While he wears glasses, his central vision is preserved and (with the glasses) he can see even the smallest bead clearly.

At the last appointment with his eye doctor, I asked when Jonathan would be able to tell us what he couldn't see, so we could know how bad his tunnel vision was.

The doctor turned his head slightly and paused. "He will never be able to tell you what he cannot see," he said.

He further explained, "He will not see blind spots. He will not think he has tunnel vision. His brain will fill in everything." From memory or conjecture, my son's brain would make up for his visual failings, so things would always look normal to him.  Nothing is blocked out.

As I listened to the speakers at today's forum discuss our understanding of our world, it occurred to me -- we all have my son's vision. We all anchor our beings by focusing on things that make sense to us. We limit our own vision to bring greater focus to the world around us. It makes sense, but we must be aware that these blind spots exist. We will not see them as blank areas, because our brains will fill in those spots as best as possible.

This is why we should turn our heads from time to time and focus elsewhere. The blind spots must be acknowledged and questioned, even if we don't feel those spots exist.

Prior to getting his glasses, Jonathan spent a lot of time looking at his hands. It was the only bit of his world that he could see clearly. I wonder what we can do to think more broadly, to look beyond ourselves, to earn a new perspective.  I wonder how many of us, given the chance, would aim for that perspective. If we're going to be honest, we'll admit that it is easier and less painful to fill in the blind spots in our head than to turn that head and seek new clarity.

These are today's lessons learned from my micropreemie, and today's challenge.


  1. Pardon the visual pun, but - GREAT PERSPECTIVE!

  2. I think it is helpful to make time to hear the stories of those who are different from us. Whether it is reading an article you don't agree with or befriending someone who has a completely different life than you do, being exposed to a variety of people and perspectives helps to prevent the tunnel vision. And of course, travel is always good too, but not always feasible.

    1. ABSOLUTELY. One of the points the speakers made last weekend was that you didn't have to travel far. I think small steps getting to know someone who was different from you were often much more noble than world travel


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