“You need glasses.”
Gabby commented as she watched me poring over the Sunday paper last month. I went on the defensive.
“No I don’t.”
“Yes you do!” she replied.
“Glasses are for old people,” I said.
“Have you seen the color of your hair at your temples?”
I stayed on message. “I don’t need glasses.”
“Then how come every time you start to read something, you make a face like you are about to sneeze?” She demonstrated for effect. Exaggerating the move.
“High pollen count,” I answered. Then I faked a poop attack to get out of further discussion.
Later that day, my six-year-old daughter tried to punch me in the face. At least that’s how it felt when she held a bottle of Gatorade fifteen inches from my nose to show me something printed on the label. Apparently I reacted as if she had fired a canister of mace into my eyeballs.
“What’s wrong daddy?”
“People don’t like it when you shove things in their face, honey.”
She just stared at me for a minute like I was a crazy person, and then went on asking her question.
I don’t need glasses.
I have repeated this mantra to myself for the better part of six months. Sure, I can only read a few pages of a book before I fall asleep, but who doesn’t get tired after working all day and corralling kids into bed? And halos around street lights when driving at night?
It’s angels. My guardian angels.
A few weeks ago, I took Jake to the drug store. He wanted to use some of the money he got for his birthday to buy some sunglasses. He’s been talking about them for weeks. As he stood in the aisle contemplating the cool factor of $6 mirrored lenses, I noticed the display of reading glasses. While he deliberated over his purchase, I reached down and grabbed a pair of 1.25’s, selecting a minimalist style made by Jonathan Something-or-Other.
This should prove it once and for all, I thought. Glasses will only make it worse.
For grins, I put them on my face.
What happened next can only be described as witchcraft. Words on the display shelf began to dance and sing. The edges of shapes were so sharp, they looked as if they had been carved by a diamond-tipped blade. I glanced down at Jake’s eight-year-old head and watched it double in size. He was growing! When he looked up at me, I could see every pore on his face. I was certain they would soon be sprouting beard hairs.
What the hell is going on!?
Jake laughed. “You look funny, Dad.”
That’s what happens when you’re possessed by a demon, son.
I took off the glasses, and things returned to normal. A slightly fuzzy normal in my close-up vision.
Do I need glasses? I wondered.
I put them on again. The clarity and sharpness returned. It was like a new world had opened up to me. And I kind of liked it.
“Do they really look funny?” I asked Jake, who was grinning at me through tinted shades.
“Yeah. You look weird.”
“Maybe you’re just not used to seeing me in glasses?”
I grabbed an identical pair from the shelf and noticed that the Jonathan Something-Or-Other label actually read Jacqueline Smith. She makes a fine pair of glasses.
Jake got a real kick out of this. Nearly wet his pants laughing. He also got his glasses. But I didn’t get mine. It got me to thinking.
I couldn’t come to grips with the fact that I need help. It happens all the time. And even though I know the improved vision would make things easier, the thought of it leaves me feeling vulnerable somehow. Like admitting a weakness. And I pride myself on being able to handle anything.
And we’re not just talking about the glasses. That’s what being a strong person is all about. Pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. Manning up. Going it alone. It’s the mark of a courageous person to suffer thorns and arrows and emerge out the other side a better person. Right?
This is the place where our American ideals butt up against our Christian principles. We firmly believe our worth is wrapped up in what we can produce and what we can endure as individuals. It can be as simple as glasses, or as complex as cancer. There is something scary about admitting that we need help. So we refuse.
And it has to stop. I’ll give you three reasons why.
First of all, refusing help denies the opportunity for someone to be Christ for another person. Deep within each one of us, God has planted a desire to make a difference. You have felt it, haven’t you? We try to scratch that itch by building careers, making our mark, or making a name for ourselves. But nothing satisfies so much as the feeling you get when you truly help another person. It’s not a fleeting pleasure like a lick from and ice cream cone. It’s lasting fulfillment brought about by knowing you are temporarily inhabiting that glorious place where the barrier between you and God is as thin as Saran Wrap.
Second, saying “no” to a helping hand denies us the opportunity to experience God’s grace. Some folks think Heaven is a place you go to when you die. I prefer to think that it’s a place that exists when a person truly experiences unconditional love. Selfless service with no strings attached.
Finally, hanging on to our burdens is like letting go of God. Trying to control everything in our lives is a recipe for failure. No matter how hard we try, we can never maintain a perfect home, a perfect marriage, or perfect health. Sure, we can put up a façade, but it’s impossible. We can point ourselves in the right direction, but the wind will blow us wherever it pleases. Faith is not being certain we can handle whatever storms come our way. Faith is trusting that the family of God is there to save us from drowning in our own selfish pride.
The hands and heart of God are all around us. Tucked away in the body of our neighbors. Ready to wash over us like a cleansing rain. All you have to do is ask.
I can see that clearly now.
* The first of many reading glasses on my night stand.