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Having read the text for my Sunday morning message this past week, I then did something I have never done before in 38 years of preaching:

I went blind.

This blindness was self-induced. My wife had brought her sleeping mask from home, and I calmly slipped it over my head and down onto my face. When I did, I was immediately plunged into absolute darkness. My message was "What Are You Refusing To See?" and it covered four consequential things that people could see but choose to be blind to.

When I got the mask in place, I managed to successfully grab the handheld microphone I would be using for the message, since I could not use my standard headset while wearing the mask. But then a bit of panic hit me as I reached out to grasp the pulpit and came up with nothing but air. I slowed my breathing, moved my hand back and forth from left to right and managed to find the corner of the pulpit. I got myself centered behind it and began to preach.

Obviously I had to preach from memory. Even with my nearly photographic memory, that was a bit of a frightening thought: What if I lost my place? What if I could not remember what verses I was supposed to be quoting?

Fortunately my memory held up well, and I did not miss a point or a verse. I preached in absolute darkness for 30 minutes, and God helped me not to make a disaster of anything, I think. But the most unexpected part of all of it for me was the dizziness. I had been nervous about forgetting something, but it never even occurred to me to be nervous about whether or not I would be able to not fall down in the middle of the message. And yet there it was, just a few minutes into the message, that churning of the stomach, the seeming swirling of the room even though I could not see it, that feeling almost of being seasick.

Most of the time I pace back and forth during a message. This time I mostly held on for dear life with my one free hand.

Weird thoughts go through your mind during a time like that. What if someone decided it would be a great time to shoot me? I would never even see it coming. What if everyone was ignoring me and playing on their phones? What if everyone had very quietly slipped out and I was preaching to an empty room? Fortunately the recurring "amens" reassured me not to worry about the latter concerns, and the fact that we have good security somewhat allayed my concerns over the former.

I could feel a sense of relief wash over me as I gave the closing illustration, telling about Hurricane Camille in 1969 and the lives that were lost by those partying in the path of the storm, even though they could see that it was coming.

When I said the last word, I removed the mask and the light immediately stung my eyes and made them water. But I have never felt as pleasant of a sting in my life, I think; even 30 minutes of self-imposed blindness made me so utterly grateful for my healthy eyes.

We take things for granted, all of us. Things like sight and hearing, things like the ability to walk and to pick things up and put them down. We go about our days always asking God for more than yesterday and being upset if he does not behave as an on-call genie in a bottle. We see trials around us, and we complain about the trials we see rather than being grateful for the eyes that allow us to see them. We hear the frightening and ominous storms of life, and we complain about the din rather than being grateful for the ears that allow us to hear it.

Proverbs 20:12 says, "The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them." These marvels of design, clear handiwork of the Creator, should be daily instigators to thankfulness, along with a thousand other mundane blessings that we have and ignore while grasping for the things we do not have. I ask my students each day what they would like to praise God for today, and when they hesitate and seem to be stumped I prod them with, "What is it that you have that you do not want to do without?"

I have a newfound respect for the blind. Some of my dear friends are blind, and while I knew their lives were challenging, preaching just a half-hour in their shoes showed me the tip of the iceberg of just how challenging. I am now more consciously aware of how grateful I should be for the 576 megapixel wonders that can distinguish 10 million different colors, blink approximately 500 million times over the course of a lifetime, have 260 million light-sensitive cells per set and allow me to see the precious faces of my wife and children.

God has been good to us. Even on the days when we pray for something and do not get what we ask for, God has been good to us. You there, you reading this column:

God gave you the eyes to do that.

Be grateful.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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Pastor Bo Wagner

 

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