On July 3, 1863 General Robert E. Lee leading the Confederate army stands alone observing the battlefield that lies before him in the midst of a war, which had already claimed over 600,000 American lives. Lee observes Major General George G. Meade’s Union positions on Cemetery Ridge. The Union troops have the high ground and are well dug in. To Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet it seems like a mistake to advance, but when that opinion is voiced Lee angrily responds,
If the enemy is there, we must attack him.
Approximately 12,500 Confederate soldiers in nine infantry brigades advanced over open fields for three-quarters of a mile under heavy Union artillery and rifle fire. Although some Confederates were able to breach the low stone wall that shielded many of the Union defenders, they could not maintain their hold and were repulsed with over 50% casualties, a decisive defeat and an avoidable mistake from which the Southern war effort never fully recovered militarily or psychologically. We now know this battle as “Pickett’s Charge” on day 3 of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Robert E. Lee had a goal, and was so overwhelmed with his vision of how to accomplish that goal that he fell victim to tunnel vision.
Merriam- Webster defines tunnel vision as:
: A condition in which you can see things that are straight ahead of you but not to the side
: A tendency to think only about one thing and to ignore everything else
: Constriction of the visual field resulting in loss of peripheral vision
: Extreme narrowness of viewpoint
: Single-minded concentration on one objective
Tunnel vision often occurs in shooting situations. You cannot hear or see anything other than the threat before you. In fact, many firearms instructors train officers to deal with involuntary tunnel vision by breaking contact with a target after eliminating the threat and scanning their surroundings to reengage their senses for other threats.
In what ways is our perspective of our circumstances in this life skewed by tunnel vision or lack of clear vision?
How often in life do we look back on a situation and have one of those moments where everything becomes clearer? The “battle fog” of the moment has lifted and for the first time we can see all the different angles and perspectives of whatever it was we were facing at the time? What things would we do differently? What things would we say differently or communicate more effectively? How would things be different if our perspective of this life, our reality, wasn’t so narrow?
If only we had the eyes of God… the perspective of the Almighty.
In scripture we find a story about a man who needed sight. John 9:1-11 tells us that story. It says,
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.”
So… what is this story about? Obviously, it is about a blind man being healed and given sight. But what if I told you that the story about the blind man is the story of our own spiritual growth? What if we are really the blind man and it is just our spiritual eyes that need to be opened and healed? In fact, we are blind and we desperately need God’s guidance. We need God to lead us.
In the story when asked how his eyes had been opened the blind man referred to Jesus simply as “a man.”
So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “Themancalled Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.”
At first I missed that! We know that Jesus never changes in the story, but the man’s perspective of him does. We see that as the story continues in John 9:35-41,
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
At first Jesus was just a man to the blind individual, then when his spiritual eyes were opened up he began to see Jesus as a prophet who had given him a life-changing experience. Through this journey Jesus became his Lord… the Messiah.
But… we shouldn’t be quick to ignore the other “party” in this story. We can also be the Pharisees in this story. As the blind man gains physical sight, the Pharisees, or “religious”, lose spiritual sight. The Pharisees can represent the part of us that doesn’t accept or trust the perspective of Jesus. It is our seemingly wiser, arrogant, intellectual, indoctrinated with tradition, religious side that insists that our spiritual development must fit into our rules and our timetable.
Let’s determine now that we won’t dismiss what we don’t control or try to rationalize away God’s will. Let’s allow Jesus to change our perspective and heal our sight.
Matthew 6:22 says,
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.
Next week we will discuss some areas in which Jesus can change our sight and heal our spiritual vision. I will leave you with the famous words of John Newton.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.