Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Learning a Lesson From Lenses

It was February 2008 and time for me to give the annual Vision Sunday message at our church. My job was to inspire the congregation to join in faith for a great year with greater growth, flourishing finance, expanding evangelism, deepening discipleship and more missionaries.
I would remind them of our Mission Statement and our Vision Statement and show them what we had achieved and what still needed to be done.
Vision Sunday was always an exciting and challenging time – and it was important to give the right message. The one thing we wanted was for everyone to have a clear picture of where we were headed.
I enjoy a weekly game of tennis with a few friends. That week, for the first time, Gonzalo and Dennis, two long-standing members of the congregation turned up for a game.
‘Barry’s not wearing his glasses,’ Gonzalo commented to no one in particular and everyone in general. Gonzalo is an optometrist.
‘I can’t wear them when I play tennis,’ I responded. ‘The frequent change of focal length makes me feel dizzy and nauseous. It’s better without them.’
‘You should get single-distance lenses,’ Gonzalo continued.
‘Tell me more,’ I said.
‘Well, if you had glasses with just long-distance lenses, you would see the ball a lot better. You would see it sooner and you could follow it right on to your racket. They say you should be able to read the writing on the ball as you make contact. You certainly can’t do that now. The right glasses might improve your game.’
Well, anything that would improve my game is welcome. And I must confess it is difficult when you see two or three balls coming at you over the net to know which one to hit, let alone to see the writing on it.
Of course, as I explained to my wife later that night after yet another defeat, it really doesn’t matter if I do miss-hit the odd ball or serve the occasional double fault. We just play for the fun of it. Winning is not important. ‘So why do you look so miserable?’ she asked.
A couple of days later, after an evening shopping jaunt to the supermarket, as I was unloading the car I accidentally knocked my glasses and they fell between me and the car. In the darkness I couldn’t see them anywhere. I decided it would be wiser and safer to go inside and grab a torch.
It was obvious they had fallen in front of me, so I stepped backwards carefully to avoid treading on them. As I did so, I felt something crumpling beneath my shoe. I lifted my foot gingerly to see what it was. In the darkness I couldn’t make out anything. I crouched down and explored the grass with my hand. As I groped in the gloom, my fingers felt the touch of a piece of fine metal.
With a sinking feeling, I realized that in my effort to avoid treading on my glasses that was exactly what I had done. There on the lawn they lay, wounded and bruised, like some large, spindly insect with huge eyes. I picked them up. One of the arms stretched at a sickening angle, as if it had a dislocated shoulder.
I walked inside where I gave the injured arm some amateur physiotherapy and managed to straighten it. I put the glasses on and found it very hard to see. I squinted and glowered and furrowed my eyebrows as I struggled with difficulty to read news print. The lenses were damp and stained. And right in the middle of one lens was a deep scratch. I washed and dried them but to my dismay the scratch was there to stay. My vision was seriously impaired.
We had already had to buy a new tyre for the car that day and now here was another unplanned-for expense. I was not happy.
Next morning as I prayed I realized that this was actually great inspiration for my Vision Sunday sermon. Just as I needed clear vision to lift my game, so did we as a congregation if we were to fulfill our purpose! If we couldn’t see clearly what God was showing us, we could not accomplish it successfully. As the Proverb writer puts it – ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’
It cost me new glasses but it was a great introduction to my message.

Barry Chant

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Barry Chant is a regular speaker at church services, seminars, conferences and conventions. Hundreds of thousands of his books have been sold around the world. He has degrees in arts, theology and ministry, a diploma in education and a PhD in history. He was the co-founder and former president of Tabor College, Australia.

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