I saw double for nearly one year. You can't say I have no sense of humor, because below is Foreigner's 1978 hit, Double Vision. (Feel free to skip).
Though it's a snappy tune, I don't understand its lyrics. Ha, ha. But what I know is that actually seeing double is no joke, as you'll read below ...
Seven years ago, Paula and I moved from Harrisonburg, VA to Indianapolis, IN. It was an enormous risk. We left our home of twenty years and our passion leading collegians to Christ at JMU ... for an uncertain future. Walking by faith, we made our move without knowing for certain that we were making the right choice. Our motto was:
"We are moving to make Jesus smile."
In other words, even if this move blew up on us, we were convinced that expressing faith in the Lord would make Him smile. And that was enough for us.
But it turns out what happened three weeks before our move was the big lesson ...
While driving my '95 Honda Accord down Broadview Street (two blocks from home), my vision suddenly scrambled. Out of nowhere, instantly, I was seeing double! I tilted my head left, right, up, and down, trying to integrate the images. Recall, I'm driving a car! I stopped, turned around, and drove home at 10 mph. Paula rushed me to the ER.
The doctors took scans of my brain. I waited 90 minutes before a doctor came to see me. The waiting period was agony, as I worried I had cancer, an aneurysm, or a stroke.
I would see double for the next 11 months and 1 week.
What happened? I had a sixth nerve palsy in my head. Essentially, the sixth nerve in my brain temporarily lost blood supply, turning off the outer muscle to my left eye. Therefore, my left eye could no longer fully pull outward (leftward). So if my right eye looked to the left, my left eye couldn't follow ... it couldn't pull past the midline. Therefore, double vision for nearly 12 months. 85% of people with a sixth nerve palsy will auto-correct their vision within 2-3 months. I'm special. I was in the 15%.
The solution was surgery, but I had to wait nearly a year. Why? To ensure my brain didn't decide to auto-correct my problem (and undo the effects of surgery).
Imagine for a moment that you see double ... for a year. Let me help. Every day you'll have a headache, as your brain attempts to fuse dual images into one. You'll experience relentless fatigue, as your brain over-exercises its visual dilemma. You won't be very productive, since accurate sight is required to accomplish many tasks.
What did I do? I kept doing what God called me to do: speak for Him in every context available and train young Christian speakers. How did that go? Well, it seemed my audiences were always twice the size I was expecting! In fact, I was constantly speaking at conventions of identical twins! Haha. I never told an audience I was seeing double, and I learned to not depend on reading my notes so much!
If you asked, "Dan, would you have chosen such a difficult year with double vision?" I would have responded, "No way!" But looking back, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Huh? Why? Because of all I learned that year watching Paula.
We spent a glorious year together. Since I couldn't drive (safely), Paula chauffeured me everywhere. If I had an appointment, Paula drove me. If I had a speaking engagement, Paula drove me. If I needed to get from A to B, Paula drove me. None of this drove me nuts ... quite the opposite.
I had never seen anyone give up their own life so willingly, as Paula did for me. She was a picture of Jesus, of humble, gracious service and sacrifice for me. She embodied Him. I will never forget. We fell more in love that year, all over again.
340 days later, a skilled surgeon (Dr. Sprunger) fixed my eye muscle, and my sight returned to normal (within acceptable parameters). During a follow-up appointment, I was determined to tell him how deeply grateful I was for his surgical skill and service to me.
"Dr. Sprunger, I'm sure you hear this all the time, but I want to say 'Thank You' for all you've done for me. I am so grateful for you."
His response was startling:
"No, Dan, actually very few people ever thank me. In fact, what I hear the most are the complaints of those for whom surgery didn't go perfectly. No one ever really thanks me."
I was thunderstruck. I couldn't believe his words. So, looking him in the eye and asking him to listen carefully, I said:
"Dr. Sprunger, thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for the countless hours you studied and stayed up late to become a great surgeon. I am forever in your debt, and I want you to know that God used you to help me see again."
Each year, on the anniversary of my surgery (April 28), I send Dr. Sprunger a hand-written Thank You note, with a picture of my family. I want him to remember God used his faithful work to heal me, to bless my family, and to encourage everyone who hears about Jesus through my life.
Our work matters to God. Whether you're an eye surgeon or a faithful barista at Starbucks. We can work hard, study hard, be faithful with our God-given abilities – to do God's work, God's way, for God's glory.
I no longer see double. But I think I learned twice as much that year as any other. Praise the Lord, who gives us sight!