As the final moments of 2019 end, we draw nearer to the end of the 2010s. Many approach the start of the new year and decade, with a new vision for themselves and a renewed resolve to set and reach physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual goals. While setting resolutions and creating vision boards to this end, it is easy to overlook another important aspect of this time of year, Epiphany.
During Epiphany, we journey with the wise men who saw the beam of light and made a pilgrimage to pay homage to the newborn king. A king who would establish his reputation as a Savior and Lord through his itinerant teaching and healing ministry. He taught in parables and healed the lame, sick, deaf, mute, and blind.
On one occasion, in Mark’s Gospel, a group of people brought a blind man to Jesus, who was seeking to have his sight restored. Jesus took the blind man by the hand, led him out of the village, put saliva on his eyes, laid his healing hands on him, and asked him, “Can you see anything?” The man responded, “I can see people, but they look like trees walking.”
This story reveals that our sight can still be unclear even if we have 20/20 vision. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), 20/20 vision is not perfect, rather “20/20 vision” is a description of normal visual acuity (sharpness and clarity) at a distance of 20 feet. Furthermore, “Other important vision skills, including peripheral awareness or side vision, eye coordination, depth perception, focusing ability, and color vision, contribute to your overall visual ability.”
As you develop your vision for 2020 and beyond, take some of the principles from these determinants of sight into consideration:
(1) peripheral awareness, or side vision, seeing ideas and people on the margins;
(2) eye-hand coordination, aligning your vision with your work;
(3) depth perception, seeing the distance between objects and relationships to determine where to place boundaries;
(4) focusing ability, seeing the path to reach your goals and objectives clearly;
(5) color vision, recognizing the dignity and worth of all humanity-black, white, and all of the colors in between.
In addition to these vision skills, there are also some eye conditions to be aware of. For example, farsightedness is the ability to see well at a distance while being unable to bring closer objects into focus. The principle here is to keep your vision for the next decade while not losing focus of the daily habits and practices that will bring you closer to your goal next year. There is also nearsightedness, the ability to see close things while being unable to see things far away. The insight here is to make sacrifices and adjustments to reach your goals next year while keeping the big picture (your goals for the decade). Finally, there is presbyopia, which is the loss of focusing ability altogether.
In the story from Mark, Jesus places his hands on the man’s eyes a second time before the man’s sight is restored, and he sees everything clearly. As we now know, even with 20/20 vision and the other factors at play, we cannot see clearly without the light. With Jesus Is King Kanye answered the question, “Can you see anything?” like the blind man from Bethsaida. Kanye’s self-proclaimed musical genius has received a second touch with the release of Jesus Is Born.
“Ultralight Beam” first appeared as the opening track on The Life of Pablo. The Sunday Service Choir gives it a second touch on Jesus Is Born. Derrick Watkins, aka Fonzworth Bentley, was one of the producers/composers on the first edition of “Ultralight Beam.” Watkins described the origins of the idea in an interview in Fader magazine: “Here’s the ultralight beam, here’s what it means. This is that connection that goes straight to heaven. This is the thing that people say is intangible, that people try to wrap their heads around.”
Consider this ultralight beam as the universal desire to connect with something that is both bigger than ourselves and beyond our grasp. Life, then, on an ultralight beam is a life lived and walked “by faith, not by sight.” It is the life of Habakkuk’s runner who reads the vision written plainly on tablets and continues to run until it is fulfilled. Perhaps, it is what God envisioned at the beginning of creating when God said, “Let there be light.” And then later, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1.26). In the creative light, humanity is the fulfillment and manifestation of God’s dreams.
As we set and live out our visions for 2020, will God’s dream shine through us? Will our lives be transparent, permitting God’s image to shine through us so that God can be seen? Will our lives be translucent, allowing God’s dream to shine through but not permitting others to see God clearly? Or, will our lives be opaque, blocking God’s desire altogether, leaving others in the dark?
In closing, be mindful of the AOA’s recommendations on comprehensive eye and vision examinations: “Periodic eye and vision examinations are an important part of preventive health care. Many eye and vision problems have no obvious signs or symptoms, so you might not know a problem exists. Early diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision problems can help prevent vision loss.”