May 2012

He was ‘001’. His name needed to be kept secret to prevent the media pressing in and making things difficult. He and ‘006’ were invited guests speaking at a conference I was attending and their unique experience and perspective captivated all three hundred delegates. My fascination was sparked further when they admitted that neither of them were the “star” of this elite group of ten people. Questions were igniting in my mind (and not just was ‘007’ the “star”?), but frustratingly my questions were not being covered by their comments. Then ever so rudely, time was up, session over and the crowds leaving the conference room convinced me that finding either person was not going to happen.

As I gathered lunch and selected a table to settle at, unanswered questions queued impatiently in my mind. Annoyingly, adequate answers would probably never be found, because reports and articles could never fully capture what I was after.

Then something unexpected happened. Opposite me sat ‘001’, beside me sat his wife. Their real names were John and Anne, they were in their late 60s, early 70s and were amazing. He had worked in broadcasting, she in education and their work had taken them around the world (apparently not a cover story!).

He had been given his ‘001’ status four years ago by being the first person in the UK to have a bionic eye. Unfortunately this was not at the level of the 70’s hit show “The six-million dollar man” who’s bionic eye gave full vision with a handy zoom feature (I’d definitely be interested in that – and while they’re at it, I wonder if they could throw in some face recognition capabilities? How helpful would that be! But I digress.) A camera on his glasses relayed a signal to a receptor on his retina via a box of tricks clipped on his belt. The signal was limited to 16 pixels (not a lot) and he could make out light and dark - which was incredible after being completely blind for 10 years. (By the way you might have seen on the news a month ago the next set of implants being tested with 1600 pixels – still limited results but perhaps I should patent the face recognition idea?)

We chatted for over an hour, John patiently answering every stupid and sensible question I presented and his wife adding further insights, observations and reality points. A fascinating conversation made extra poignant because John and I share the same eye condition.

Then John said something very interesting. (Probably a core reason they chose him to be ‘001’). He said he was happy to chat about his bionic eye, and it was good to hear the conference highlighting various medical approaches being pursued to help those facing retina problems and blindness. But John continued by saying he was disappointed that they didn’t also tell people that being blind is not the end of life. “You can still have a rich and fulfilling life whilst being blind.”

This was not John declaring he was happy to be blind – the fact that he volunteered to be ‘001’ clearly demonstrated his desire to see again. He was saying that if we are forever hoping for an answer to appear around the next corner, we risk missing out on so much of life that is happening now.

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

The writer of Hebrews was not writing about blindness, but how Jesus calls his followers to live. To live life in light of who Jesus is, what he has done and his promise to be with us always.

I wonder how often we miss out on the life that Jesus wants us to live, because we are too focused on waiting for something different to happen. It is good to be expectant, but faith also sees, acts and lives for Jesus in the “now” of life; at work, at school, in the home, in our friendships, in our church, in our community.

May God grant us sight to see the majesty, wonder and work of Jesus in our now.

Mark Madavan

P.S. As I begin my sabbatical - stepping out of the traffic of being a minister 24/7 – Cathy and I are so grateful to the church family for making this possible. Your prayers and support are valued and needed as we stop, reflect, refocus, regroup, renew, recalibrate, refresh and listen to God’s voice in the “now” without the added noise and pressure of addressing what is supposed to be happening next. Thank you for your love and prayers..
 
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