Face it.

Over the last eight weeks I have had cataracts removed from each of my eyes.  In both cases the surgeon replaced the compromised lens with a new lens.  In both cases the result of the procedure has been to almost eradicate the nearsightedness and extreme astigmatism that I have lived with all my life.

This is indeed a marvelous thing.  As I look clearly in beautiful color into an amazing world it might well be wished that cataracts could have come along decades ago.

It is an adjustment.  One of the most curious parts of that adjustment I had not foreseen.  It is this.  I have worn corrective lenses every waking moment since grade three.   I recall my first visit to my Uncle Peter and Aunt Teresa’s home in Birmingham, England.  One of my first cousins there, a little boy at the time, posed a genuine question to me as I emerged from rest one morning.  “John,” Colin asked, “were you born with your glasses on?”  A hearty laugh followed on all sides, but the right answer would have been, “Almost.”

So, the shock over the last couple of days, if I could use that tern, is the realization that  – to a great extent – I have never until now seen my face.  I have never before completely seen my own face. To do so, I would until now have to remove my glasses and get well within two inches of a mirror to clearly see.  If I left my glasses on, as was usually the case (as Colin had noticed), I was not really seeing my face.  I was seeing my face dressed with my latest frames.  If I saw myself in a photo without glasses, that still image provided some sense of the  living reality, but definitely not the whole.

And I never really knew that until yesterday morning.

Yesterday I got up.  Went to the mirror.  Noted that my left eye, done the afternoon before, was still dilated, and then paused to realize, “That’s my face.”  I looked, especially into the eyes.  I felt as if I did not know them. Not really.   I still feel the same of course a mere day later,  I cannot yet name what I see in them, looking back at me.  It does seem that the whole looks much more intense than I have known.  There is a mystery there that I have never truly known.

Considering all this, tonight, in the pages of a major American newspaper, I came face to face with the image of a tiny boy holding a stuffed animal. He is looking wide-eyed, to the camera.  He has been separated from his mother for four months, a lifetime for him.  And in a real way, a lifetime for her as well.  His eyes, too, showed an intensity that one might well expect, an intensity he might not have evidenced before this traumatic period.

Adan Galicia Lopez, 3, was separated from his mother for four months. [Victor J. Blue, NY Times]

His human face tells a story.  His human face both reveals and conceals a mystery.  It’s a mystery that will be unveiled in some measure over the years of his life.  But the mystery will remain.  This face of mine, like all 7,000,000,000 human faces,  reveals and conceals its own mystery too.   Even I do not comprehend it.  In the face of this truth, I can only bow before the mystery of this tiny boy.

Lord, help me to see.

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