What do I fear most about sight loss? Over the years my answer has changed just as my vision has decreased. I can honestly say that I am at a place in my life where I have no fear in being blind. It is just the reality of my life. I have a choice to limit myself and miss out on the fun or I could just look past what I can’t see and do all the fun stuff anyways. More often than not, I just go for it! I have 4 other senses that work perfectly and allow me to enjoy people and the world around me.
Don’t misunderstand my choice to live life to the fullest with an idea that being blind isn’t challenging. I live in a world that is for the sighted. From the beauty of the land to the menu at my favorite restaurant, sight is required. However, I have to overcome the requirement of sight and find a different way to participate. A lot of times it is through the eyes of my husband and children. Whether it’s just a drive through town or hike to a waterfall, sharing with me what they see is just what they do and it’s how I see. And other times it’s through technology; screen readers, audio description, artificial intelligence, text to speech readers, digital books and apps that can tell me what my eyes can’t see. And most especially, it’s through the harness on my guide dog, West. He gives me the ability to walk down a sidewalk independently, making me feel just a little less blind.
Now, back to what I fear most from sight loss, it’s falling! Not just tripping in the yard or on a sidewalk but falling from the top of a set of stairs or falling off a ledge or cliff or just the edge of anywhere. I once stepped right into a lazy river, which would not have been an issue if I were there to swim, but I was dressed for dinner, didn’t even see it, and swish, right down into the water. Not one of my most shining moments, but one I won’t forget. There’s this thing in my head that keeps me wondering and waiting for that fail moment when I miss that edge and fall.
The good news, I haven’t fallen down any steps lately. And that is probably because of my super smart guide dog, West! I’m not exaggerating, he is really super smart. He knows what his job is and as long as it isn’t meal time, he does his job well. He works me around people and obstacles with a casual confidence. And yes, he stops me just before the steps, whether I know they are there or not. He stops and waits until I find the first step, then he begins to move, but moves forward with caution, checking to be sure I am aware and safe.
Recently, my family and I attended a conference at Opry Land in Nashville, TN. It was our first time there and the place is massive. With just a few more days West and I would have been able to find our way without sighted people to lead the way. And yes, there were steps! And every time, West stopped me and alerted me to them. And every time I felt a moment of fear, the “what if” he would have missed the alert and “what if” I fell? The fear only lasts a moment and is quickly replaced with gratitude and joy, that I made is safely down. And immediately, West gets treats and lots of praise! Treats and praise to reinforce his actions and make him want to do it again!
But wouldn’t you know, all through the resort and around downtown Nashville, I kept asking my husband, “are there any stairs?” “Am I okay?” And my husband’s response over and over was, “Trust your dog.” “Trust your dog.” “Trust your dog!” Over and over he was reminding me to, TRUST my dog! Ahhhhhhhh! ! Ok, ok, I hear ya, but can you tell me what’s ahead, tell me what I can’t see!
Now, don’t get mad at David. He wasn’t keeping information from me. He knows I’ve always struggled with trusting my dog. There is something inside of me that wants more control, a part of me that fears the unknown, it’s a small hesitation that is holding me back and keeping me from greater independence and security. He can see the beauty of what is happening as West guides me through a crowd, down a sidewalk, to the top of a set of stairs, through a door. He is awed by the brilliance of a dog and his ability to guide me, giving me the independence that I crave. And more importantly, he wants me to trust and relax so that I can enjoy the journey!
As I reflect on this fear, on David’s constant reminder to trust West and the fact that West alerts me to the edge every time, I’m reminded of my trust in the Lord. How often do my fears of what I can’t see ahead of me keep me from enjoying the journey? How often do I hold back from something amazing because I’m not trusting His direction for my life? Why do I hesitate when He has never let me down?
Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Sounds simple enough. Trust Him, find out what it is He would have for you and He will guide you on the right path. Yes, simple, but why do I make it so difficult? Well, it’s because I allow fear to creep in. I allow just a small bit of doubt to try and take hold.
I love the song by Elevation Worship called “Do It Again.” It’s a beautiful reminder that even though I can’t see what’s in front of me, He’s got me. Even though today’s circumstances seem unfavorable. Even when the diagnosis reveals a battle ahead. Even when I feel broken, His promise is still holding on! He IS faithful.
And so, just like I choose each day to look past what I can’t see and take hold of all life has to offer, I’m choosing each day to trust in God and in what I can’t see. He will alert me to the edge every time. I can trust Him, relax and enjoy the journey!
And oh, if you haven’t ever placed your trust in God. If you’ve never experienced His faithfulness, I invite you to give Him a try. He WON’T let you down. I won’t promise it will always be easy, He doesn’t promise that. But I am confident that no matter what, He will not leave you abandoned or forsaken.