According to the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIE/NIH), a cataract is, "a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision." But the next few words of the definition really hit me: "Most cataracts are related to aging". I guess we all struggle with aging, some (my husband) more than others! But it seemed interesting to me to ponder this association of clouded vision with aging. You'd think that the older we get, the clearer our vision of God and his word and love would be but, you know, I believe that our spiritual eyes are just as at risk for developing cataracts as we age as our physical eyes.
According to the NIE/NIH, cataracts related to aging are caused by the proteins that make up our lenses clumping together. When the proteins clump together, they reduce the amount of light that hits the retina causing vision to become blurry. They can also cause the lens to darken and turn a brownish tint. This brownish coloring of the lens can hinder our ability to differntiate color - especially purples and blues. Things we do to ourselves that are hard on our eyes, like smoking, or illnesses, like diabetes or simply the stresses of daily life- every day wear and tear can cause clumping of those proteins. And there are other causes of cataracts that don't have anything to do with aging. Things like trauma, or things that were supposed to help us like surgery or medications. We can be born with cataracts or we can acquire them from radiation therapy for treatment of cancer.
Maybe it's just me but it seems like all of those things can cause spiritual cataracts just as easily. Maybe an illness or relentless struggle can cause us to see God as brutal or uncaring. Maybe a traumatic past can cause a skewed vision of God's word as meaningless or empty. Perhaps "helpful" words from fellow Christians or even respected pastors can cause deep pain that cloud our vision of the church as untrustworthy or even vicious. Situations we are born into, or marry into, or move into can harden our hearts and prevent us from seeing God clearly. I believe it would require a very introspective and humble spirit for a person to have the where-with-all to ask God to remove these kinds of cataracts. I believe we hold onto them with all our strength if we're concious of their presence at all. But the psalmist does, indeed, ask.
I'm getting old. It's true. And along with getting old, I believe I'm at fairly high risk for developing cataracts. Although I may have some of the cataracts posed above, I believe my cataracts are of the simple aging variety. They're the daily wear and tear of a stress filled life that doesn't have time to spend reflecting on the word of God. That daily grind has clumped all the proteins of my lens til I view God through a hazy mist. The darkened tint prevents me from seeing the glory and majesty of a God who desires so deeply for me to know Him. The Light simply isn't getting through. He's something important, I can tell that. But honestly, He comes off a utilitarian shade of khaki instead of the vibrant purples of royalty.
The good news is that cataracts can be removed. Both of my parents have had cataract surgery and it's been quite successful. Ninety per cent of people who have cataract surgery have improved vision afterward (National Eye Institute, "Facts About Cataracts"). The thing is, you have to ask for the surgery, just as the psalmist does in 119:18. It seems to me that if I ask for my cataracts to be removed, God would be fairly pleased to flufill that request. Just as I'm sure He was pleased when the psalmist asked the same. And I fully expect to start seeing much more purple than khaki!
"Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle wonders"
- The Message