With Fresh Eyes, Karen Wingate. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2021.
Summary: Sixty reflections of a woman born legally blind, who gains significant sight in one eye, seeing not only the world, but also the world’s Creator with new eyes.
Karen Wingate was born legally blind due to a genetic defect. Successive surgeries had given her marginal vision in her left eye. Then she faced another surgery on her “good eye” that might help but could also cost her her vision. On the eve of the surgery, a friend prayed that she would see “better than ever.” Then after her surgery, her eye surgeon spoke to her that he had not only clear debris out of her eye but had been able to open up her contracted pupil, allowing more light into her eye and also told her that her vision would likely be “better than ever.”
As she absorbed these words, she reflected:
“Despite low vision, God had given me all I needed. I could fill pages with stories of how God provided me transportation to travel all over the country even though I don’t drive. A Bible seminary that didn’t have services for disabled students recruited undergrads to read textbooks to me. At every point when work and my poor eyesight collided, computer technology took a leap forward, relieving the strain of seeing. I had an education, a family, a career, and a good ministry. God had answered my childhood prayer to help me live my life despite poor eyesight. I had learned to be content and grateful for the vision I did have.
“And now this. Better Than Ever” (pp. 36-37).
What follows in this book are sixty reflections on the experience of seeing the world Better Than Ever, and what the author saw of God in the process. It is a story of seeing the great blessings of God in the smallest things we often don’t notice or take for granted. Like reading the bathroom scale without awkwardly bending over. Noticing the grains and texture of dirt sifting through one’s hands. Seeing the vivid burst of fireworks–and the smoke. Noticing the smudges caused by the dog’s nose against the window. Seeing the wings of a hummingbird at a feeder.
There is a gentle, often self-deprecating humor that runs through these reflections. But there is something more. There is a woman trained to fill pages with her recognition of God’s goodness, filling new pages with the fresh recognition of God in the things she was seeing for the first time. She writes of hearing a flock of geese flying her way, and silently wish-praying “O God, I would like to see the geese. It would be so nice if they came closer.” And they did, the whole flock flying fifty feet over her head for miles. She muses whether God could and would send a flock of geese on this route just to fulfill her wishes and concludes that “God loves our enjoyment of his creation. He delights to give us good gifts.’
If there is a theme that runs through these reflections, it is that God is deeply good, even in the hardest places, and that we can trust God. Wingate invites us into her life, not only what she sees, but her circle of friends, her husband, and her two daughters. As we read her reflections, she offers an account of what it looks like for one woman to walk trustingly with God, attentive to the ways God shows up in daily life.
Each three to four page reflection begins with a scripture, followed by her reflection on something seen with fresh eyes, concluding with a prayer and a “seeing with fresh eyes” exercise. I often found myself, having been drawn into her stories, praying her prayers because they spoke so meaningfully.
I guess part of what caught my attention is that I have always had poor eyesight, a combination of astigmatism and near-sightedness, corrected first with lens, then gradated lenses for different distances, and reading glasses because I read a lot. Two of my family members experienced macular degeneration so that could be in my future. My optometrist tells me I have the beginnings of cataracts. Lights don’t seem as bright as they once were. With a love for both reading and the natural world, I increasingly appreciate the preciousness of sight as I face the possibility of its diminishing. Karen Wingate encourages me not only to be attentive to the beauties of the world around me but also of what they show me of God. I will have that even should I have no sight. But only if I pay attention to what I see…
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.