Be Thou My Vision

I think it was in 4th grade that I first read the essay, “Three Days to See,” by Helen Keller. From the first paragraph, I was enthralled by the romance of Helen’s story. I even began to “practice” being blind. Seriously. I practiced getting from room to room, from bed to bathroom, with my eyes closed. I got really good at “being blind.” So good that, to this day, I still move “by touch” in the dark.

As is so often the case with me, my curiosity about blindness led copious research on the subject. I remember, probably in 5th grade, doing a LONG report on the “Gift of Sight.” This scholarly endeavor wasn’t inspired only by Helen Keller. I had been prescribed my first pair of glasses just before this writing assignment.

I distinctly remember how angry I was — I did NOT need glasses. I was no longer enthralled by romantic notions about eye sight. To a 5th grade girl, glasses are NOT cool, at least they weren’t in the late 50’s!

Yet, when the doctor encouraged me to “just try them out,” I put the glasses on and looked out the office window. Amazing! This was my first experience with the difference between seeing without glasses (an Impressionist painting) and with glasses (my eyes focused with startling clarity: I could see the leaves on the trees!) I still remember my utter amazement.

On the afternoon after my cataract surgery, when I gazed out through the tiny holes in my eye-patch, I experienced the very same delight. Leaves! Rose petals! Grass blades! Suddenly, I was a 5th grader again, back in that doctor’s office, overjoyed at the clear, multi-faceted beauty I could now see. (And that was with only one good eye! I can’t wait for next Tuesday when I will have the second surgery!)

From 5th grade on, I continued to be interested in the whole subject of eye-sight. As a writer for children’s magazines, I gathered a file full of eye trivia for future articles. I still have that file. Here are a few facts, for your enlightenment (enlightenment is such an interesting word….think about it.)

Did you know?

    • Human eyes are made of over two million working parts?
    • People blink fifteen times per minute on average (unless they are working on a computer, reading emails on a tablet, playing games on the Internet, or scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed. Then they blink less than half that number – not at all good for eyes).
    • Newborns see everything upside down – no wonder they cry a lot!
    • Dolphins sleep with one eye open. (Perhaps they have a good reason, living in shark-infested waters.)

I think you get the message: I have had a life-long interest in the sense of sight. I continue to this day to be fascinated with Helen Keller, her life and her writings. Here is one of my favorite Keller quotes: “The only thing that’s worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

This quote reminds me of some frightening verses in the Scriptures about spiritual blindness. Here are just a few from the New Testament:

Jesus said, “For judgement I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with Him heard Him say this and asked, “ What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” John 9:39-41

He has blinded their eye and deadened their hearts, so that they can neither see with their eyes, no understand with their hearts, nor turn — and I would heal them. John 12:40

Wow. These Scriptures are both scary and sad. It seems at first glance that Jesus was just speaking to those awful Pharisees. BUT wait. The New Testament has a LOT more to say to the rest of us. Here is just one reference from Second Peter:

Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brother kindness, love. If you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. II Peter 1:5-9

Ouch. Did I just read “self-control” in that list?

This scripture seems to be warning us, especially those of us who have been Christians for a long time, that we are responsible “make an effort” to “add” to the marvelous work that God has done in us. It implies that, though we know the Lord, and even serve Him, we can become “ineffective and unproductive” in that knowledge if we don’t continue to “GROW in grace!”

Let’s move on from this ominous Scripture (after taking it to heart, I hope) to a few more positive verses about spiritual sight:

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law. Psalm 119:18 (A great verse to pray before picking up a Bible!)

Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes. I Samuel 12:16 (Note that you must “stand still” first…)

I myself will see [God] with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me.” Job 19:27

Let me end this post back where we began, with Helen Keller. I like to think about her, now, gazing on the face of God “with her own eyes.” Helen knew the Lord “through a glass darkly” in this life. She was taught a form of religion that was very murky (Swedenborgian); but even so, she expressed a love of God in her writings.

I who am blind can give one hint to those who see—one admonition to those who would make full use of the gift of sight: Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind. And the same method can be applied to the other senses. Hear the music of voices, the song of a bird, the mighty strains of an orchestra, as if you would be stricken deaf tomorrow. Touch each object you want to touch as if tomorrow your tactile sense would fail. Smell the perfume of flowers, taste with relish each morsel, as if tomorrow you could never smell and taste again. Make the most of every sense…. But of all the senses, I am sure that sight must be the most delightful. (From “Three Days to See.”)

I would add just one thing: apply everything Helen says, not only to the physical world, but to the world of the Spirit. Ask every day, in prayer, “LORD, that I might see. Be Thou My Vision!”

Someday, dear friends and family members, when you attend my funeral, you will sing my favorite hymn. (I am leaving a detailed plan!) But why wait until then.

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.


Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true Word;

I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;

Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son


Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.


Be Thou my battle shield, sword for the fight;

Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight;

Thou my soul’s shelter, Thou my high tower;

Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.


Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,

Thou mine inheritance, now and always;

Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,

High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.

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