What to Do When You’ve Suddenly Lost Your Vision

by Andy Wood on November 25, 2011

in Insight, Leadership, Life Currency, Turning Points

The other day I turned left out of a parking lot and started heading south on Avenue Q, between 19th and 34th Streets in Lubbock, where I live.  If you’re not familiar with that stretch of road, it’s a seven-lane thoroughfare, with three lanes each heading south and north, and a turn lane.  Big.  Wide.  Sprawling.  Busy.

It was in the afternoon, around 3:00 or so.  I was talking on the phone with Joel, my son.  Traffic was busy enough, but not nuts.  I was in the middle lane, with cars pretty much all around me – left and right, front and back.  I was probably about a quarter mile from the 34th Street intersection when the strangest thing began to happen.

I went blind.

Well, sort of.  I don’t know what else to call it.

My left eye had the sensation that somebody had put a manila-colored sheet over it, and I couldn’t see a thing out of it.  Meanwhile, my right eye began closing up.  It felt like a slightly darker-than-manila-colored substance began seeping into it from the sides, and I was able to see less and less until the right eye was sealed completely shut.

All at about 35 miles per hour.

And on the phone.

The first thing I did was tell my son I needed to call him back, something had come up.  I remembered there was a car about 150 feet in front of me and another about 250 feet behind me.

I began to pray and panic.  Or maybe panic and pray.  I was desperate to reopen the right eye but my hands were frozen to the steering wheel. I felt my heart starting to race, and my first instinct was to slam on the brakes.  But another instinct took over:

“Just slow down.”

But when do I stop?  And what’s going on?  And why in the world can’t I see?  And how am I going to keep myself from getting killed, or killing somebody else?

All the eyebrow lifting in the world wasn’t getting my eye back open.  Finally, I did the only thing that could possibly have helped…

I woke up from that really scary dream.

Who is among you that fears the Lord,

That obeys the voice of His servant,

That walks in darkness and has no light?

Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God (Isaiah 50:10)

Sometimes, as Isaiah explains, even people who fear and obey the Lord suddenly find themselves with a sudden loss of direction or clarity.  It’s as if somebody turned the lights off, and suddenly things that are your friends in the daytime become obstacles or enemies at night.

Or, in the case of my dream, sometimes you’re minding your own business and doing everything you know to do that’s right, and you lose the capacity to see where the next place to go is.  Or to recognize potential danger.  Examples:

  • Being faced with decisions – large or small – and suddenly being lost as to what to do.
  • Being in what our spiritual fathers have called a “dark night of the soul,” where everything else appears normal, but you feel spiritually distant, disconnected, or even depressed.
  • For no apparent reason, you have no guarantees for what lies ahead, or no explanations for what is going on right now.  With no confirming feelings, every outward circumstance seems to contradict what God is saying.
  • Reaching a point in your leadership where people are looking to you for direction, and you are absolutely clueless or confused.
  • In all of this, racking your brain to try to figure out where you have gone wrong, and having no answer to that question because as far as you know, you’ve done everything right.

Between Isaiah’s counsel and the dream experience, let me suggest a few strategies for dealing with a loss of vision, in the spiritual or leadership sense:

1.  Remove as many potential distractions as possible.

You may be a champion multi-tasker.  But when the lights go out, things that are helpful when vision is 20/20 may only be sources of mental or emotional clutter in the dark.  Be as polite as you can.  But say no to your distractions, including distracting people.  Just as I had to get off the phone, you may have to cancel that meeting, reschedule that appointment, or put off less vital things – however much you may love them in the light.  Loss of vision changes the rules for what is distracting and what is enhancing.

2.  Be careful about slamming on the brakes.

Fear or insecurity brings out different things in people.  In many cases, people with uncertainties tend to slam on the brakes and remain motionless until they have more assurances of success or safety.  But that’s not always the safest or wisest thing to do.  Many people in your life, your family, or your organization depend on you to keep moving, even if at a slower speed.  Always remember, when you slam on the brakes, the people following you will have to do the same.

3.  Don’t speed up, either.

Panic can make you manic.  But this probably isn’t a time for bravado or trying to prove something to yourself.  Some people instinctively think that speeding up – getting over the next hill or hurrying past the next intersection – will suddenly restore their capacity to see clearly.  Not likely.  It’s more likely to set you up to do something really stupid.

4.  Remain moving in the same direction.

Some people interpret a loss of vision as a reason to yank the steering wheel toward a different direction.  I’ll bet you’ve had a boss or pastor or two like this.  If they aren’t seeing the assumed results, they turn left.  Or right.  Or go back.  Or (if they’re female) they ask some other blind person for directions.  It’s a classic piece of wisdom for discerning the Lord’s direction – go back to the last time you felt His leadership, and continue (or start) doing what He directed you to do.

5.  Slow down.

In the dream, the clear leadership wisdom was, “Take your foot off the gas and wait for further instructions.”  For some people, including me, the only way the Lord can get their attention enough to slow them down is to turn out the lights for a while.  I hate slowing down, almost as much as I hate stopping and waiting.  But just as there are certain photographs you can capture only when you’re dead still, there are certain aspects of wisdom you can only receive when you slow down long enough to catch it.  So do it.  Slow down.  Wait for further instructions.

6.  Call on the Lord with Confidence.

You’ll never know how confident you are in your ability to see or sense until you lose that ability.  You’ll never know whether you trust in your own ability or vision more than God until God is all you have.  Even when you can’t trust your vision or your surroundings anymore, Isaiah says you can trust in the Name of the Lord.  Which name of the Lord would you like to trust in right now?  Provider?  Light of the World?  Resurrection?  Healer?  Strong Tower?  Decide today that with or without visual confirmation, you can and will trust in the many ways He has revealed Himself, and call on His name.

7.  Find a staff to lean on.

“Rely” means to lean on for support.  Remember that old Gospel hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms?”  May I suggest to you that to say you’re leaning on Jesus, you’re actually admitting you can’t stand on your own?  A more contemporary (but still old) song says, “Finding more power than I’d ever dreamed, I’m learning to lean on Jesus.”  Leaning is a learned art.  But you won’t learn it when you’re inspired.  It’s only when you’re incapable of taking another step without Him that you learn best to rely upon Him.

 

Vision – spiritual vision, leadership vision, you name it – is an often-flighty thing.  If you’re going through a loss of vision lately, let me encourage you that as you follow the Lord’s leadership and wait for further instructions, as you trust Him and lean on Him, the vision will take care of itself… and God will take care of you.

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