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After Operation, Blind Man Slowly Learns to See

At the age of 45, Michael May miraculously regained his sight. May was blinded at age three, and lived 42 years of his life without sight. Then, in 1999, he was given the possibility to see again through what was at that time a revolutionary transplant surgery.

Prior to May's surgery, there were only about forty cases of sight restored to patients who had been either born blind or who had been blind for most of their life. Most of these patients followed a similar pattern. At first, they experienced euphoria as light rushed into their repaired eyes. They saw color and motion immediately. Everything was new and exciting. It was a miracle.

But then frustration set in. Learning to live with sight involved a huge learning curve. Most of the newly-sighted people still couldn't perceive height, distance, depth, or three-dimensional shapes. They couldn't read facial expressions and detect gender. Nor could they distinguish important information from the trivial. At times, the newly-sighted patients felt that they belonged neither to the world of those who see nor the world of those who can't see. Family members, who had expected immediate change, were often crushed by the slow transformation.

But Michael May's case was different. When the doctors finally removed the surgical bandages from his eyes, just like the other patients he couldn't perceive space or see height, distance, depth, or three-dimensional shapes. The moon looked like a big streetlamp. He couldn't read people's faces. But unlike the other patients, May didn't get discouraged by the long learning curve. Instead, he approached his new world with an attitude of adventure and childlike wonder.

May knew that learning to see again would involve not just one magical operation, but a lifelong quest to learn, grow, take risks, and change. Even as he left the hospital, May peppered his wife with questions: "What's this? What's that? Is that a step? Is that a flower? That's a painting? Let me feel it. Can I touch that plant? Let me touch a car." He rode elevators over and over again for the sheer pleasure of finding the hotel lobby after the ride. He played catch with his son, horribly missing many balls before he finally got the hang of it.

May continued to struggle with his transition to the reality of sight. His world often looked like a huge abstract painting. High-speed events, such as the passing of cars and bicycles, became frightening. Things often looked very close—frighteningly close. Previous patients had felt discouraged or even depressed by this long, slow transformation to the new reality of sight. But May told himself that this was part of the adventure, that the leap forward wasn't really a leap at all if everything felt safe. As a result, every day and even every failure seemed like a new opportunity for May to learn, grow, and change.

Possible preaching angles: (1) When we come to Christ, he restores our spiritual vision. But just like the man in this story had to learn to see through a long process, Christians are on a lifelong journey called sanctification. We can approach this process of transformation with discouragement or with adventure and wonder. (2) Just as the man in this story had to learn to distinguish or discern reality with his new sight, followers of Christ must enter a lifelong process of learning to discern good and evil, obedience and disobedience.

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