Dear church,

I went to the eye doctor the other day. I have been having trouble with slightly blurry vision when I read. It’s gotten to the point where I am pushing things away from my face in order to see them clearly. And my arms are barely long enough now. 

The eye doctor came into the room and said, “Welcome to being older than 40.” So that was reassuring. After she completed the eye exam, she looked at me and said, “Everything is normal. Your vision is actually better than most people your age. But I have to tell you, it will keep getting worse. There will come a point when you won’t be able to read anything without glasses. We can’t do anything about that. So just get used to it.”

I used to be proud of my eyesight. A lot of my friends and other people I know have been forced into glasses and contact lenses, and I was just trucking along with 20/20 vision, not even thinking about it. 

And now, the decline in my vision has been diagnosed. The doctor gave me some medical term for it that I have since forgotten, but she said it’s totally normal. Everyone will suffer from poor vision in their lives, if they live long enough.

When I was in high school, my dad suggested I should try to be an optometrist when I grew up. I asked him why I should pursue that profession. He said, “Because everyone eventually needs glasses. You’ll have great job security.”

He was right, of course. That’s a bit of advice I sometimes wish I had followed. At the eye doctor’s office, all sorts of people came in – young and old. An elderly lady was there with her walker. Her friend told her she would go wait in the car until she was done. “What!?!” the elderly lady said. The friend then shouted – “I’m going to go wait in the car!” 

Hearing loss probably will come to me, too.

Having never worn glasses, I was overwhelmed at the choices a person has in frames. I stood there for a long time looking at dozens – probably hundreds – of frame styles. How does a person even know what to pick? Thick frames, thin frames, no frames, Harry Potter glasses, heavy smart-guy glasses. And then there’s anti-glare lenses. And you have to decide whether to have “transition” glasses that turn into sunglasses when you are outside. 

I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know!

So I just gathered up a selection of frames and took them to Mary, who is an experienced wearer of glasses, and I asked her just to tell me what to buy. “Which ones do you like?” she asked as I cycled through half a dozen frames. I told her I had no idea because I hadn’t even looked in the mirror with any of them on. After we settled on her two finalists, I finally found a mirror. 

I saw a man in decline. 

It’s the inevitable decline. We are frail people, you know. Our bodies work pretty well for about 30 years and then things begin not to work quite as well. And we must come to terms with this. A lot of people care very much about their health, of course, and this is easier said than done. These bodies of ours are pretty important to us.

And if we don’t believe in the resurrection, they are REALLY important to us.

One of the most interesting things about my trip to the eye doctor was watching people try on glasses while wearing their facemasks. COVID-19 plays a role in everything we do now. I noticed that the moment I put on a pair of glasses while wearing a facemask, I fogged over the lenses. Mary had warned me about this problem.

The people working in the eyeglass shop monitored the number of people who were coming into the building so they could stay in compliance with the pandemic regulations. They roped off the entrance when they hit max capacity.

So here we were, a dozen or so of us humans who were trying on eye glasses, dealing with a pretty important decline in one of our bodily functions – our vision – while at the same time being as careful as possible to keep from getting the coronavirus and making things all the worse. 

Our bodies are fragile and declining. We know that. Let’s not exacerbate things. 

And back in Genesis 35, Jacob tells his family, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you …” It seems Rachel’s theft of her father’s household gods had spread like gangrene within the family (Genesis 31:19).

And so they put them away. And Jacob threw them all under a tree. 

What are our “household gods”? Can our physical health become a god to us? Can it become an idol? I think we know that it can. The reality of COVID-19 has forced this issue to the front-burner for Christians. We have to decide just what we think about our health – and our ability to protect it. 

I think this has been a good thing. 

We want to care for our health. We want to be responsible for it, and so we put on our masks, stay six feet apart, and use hand sanitizer until we bleed. But at the same time, we must recognize that we can’t really control our health. I can’t do anything about my eyes. And I can’t guarantee I won’t get COVID, even if I take the vaccine and wear my mask. 

Our bodies simply will do what they will do. 

The danger is in trying to be in total control of our health. To think of our health as some sort of highest good, some item to protect at all costs, leads us to an unhealthy place – in a spiritual sense. It can cause us to be anxious, and it can cause us to develop an unhealthy view of the things God has created. We begin to worship, in a sense, created things (ourselves) rather than the Creator. 

We need to “put it away,” as Jacob told his own family. Our good health, if we have it, is a gift from God himself. And I believe our declining health, which many of us are experiencing today, can be a gift as well – if we keep it in perspective.

Chris

One thought on “Genesis 35: Foreign gods

  1. So sorry you have hit that 40+/vision decline mark! Been there..
    I completly agree with your thoughts on this subject leading to an unhealthy place spiritually… it seems to be one of the dominant challenges our culture faces today

    Like

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