Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering


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Cataracts and Inner Vision


I’ve recently been diagnosed with a cataract in my left eye. Yes, I’m a bit young for cataracts, but evidently this isn’t an age-related cataract. It’s also not on the front of the eye’s lens, which is where most cataracts develop. My cataract has grown on the back of the lens, although I don’t have the risk factors usually associated with such a cataract. I guess I’m a medical mystery, or just one of the “lucky ones.”

I am lucky to have health insurance and to live in a first-world country in the 21st century. All those things mean that removing this cataract, probably in July, should be (God willing!) a straightforward and relatively simple procedure (your prayers are welcome). Reading up on cataracts, I’ve learned that they are the primary cause of blindness amongst my less fortunate sisters and brothers around the world. Over the years, I’ve received multiple pleas for donations from nonprofits that send medical care teams to third-world countries to perform cataract surgeries for some “lucky ones” who are thus able to regain their sight.

I must admit: For most of my life, I have taken my eye health for granted. This is despite having married a man who worked for the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind for almost two decades, and having a very dear friend whose husband is slowly going blind from diabetes complications and who has a history of eye issues herself. This awareness has changed over the past few months, as I’ve sensed my vision growing cloudy and wondered about the cause. Certainly it was a relief to learn that the diagnosis was nothing more complex than a cataract.

My pondering also led me down an interesting path that is the reason for my choice to post on this topic. I found myself thinking about the fact that a cataract on the back of the eye is more unusual. It led me to wonder whether, at some deep, unconscious level, I am still struggling with my unwillingness to look within, face my fears, and live out my vocation. It’s a lifelong struggle for me—being afraid of success, rather than failure—and was one of the first topics about which I posted nearly four years ago. If I’ve spent a lot of my life running away from my inner vision—from what I knew, or sensed, that I was called to do—is it any wonder that, over time, my inward vision might have clouded up?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf we refuse to see, and embrace, the invitations issued by our souls, or by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, will we develop a blindness to the Spirit’s direction? I believe so. Whether it manifests in literal blindness is not the issue, nor am I proposing a literal, physical correlation. I am, however, positing a deeper-truth connection between the blindnesses we choose to embrace and our eventual inability to see what we have ignored, or run away from, for so long.

Are there cataracts developing on the lens of your inner vision? Are there deeper truths that you are ignoring or fleeing? Could you invite the divine surgeon to remove those cataracts so that you can see clearly and embrace your calling, or more clearly see the next step on your spiritual journey?

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A Fog Blog


That “taste of snow” last week turned into a whopper—6 inches! A week later, despite a few days in the mid-fifties, there was still snow on the ground, at least in the shade and on the north side of homes and hillsides. IMG_0821Then fog rolled in last Friday…another very unusual event for New Mexico. Amazing, thick, pea-soup fog, the likes of which I don’t remember seeing since I lived in New England! I spent another day distracted from the computer, and in awe of creation’s amazing variety….

Fog obscures our view, and changes our perspective. Mountains that normally feel close by are slowly shrouded by layers of mist until they disappear completely, helping us recognize that they’re much further away than they appeared. Things that we “know” are out there, we can no longer see—and can sometimes forget.

I’m editing a fascinating book about an abbess in early-seventeenth-century France, and am finding much to ponder in her niece-and-biographer’s contemplative interpretations on the events in this abbess’s life. She talks about how we sometimes appear to lose our way, to lose touch with God’s guidance, or voice. She wonders whether this is, in fact, part of the nature of God’s plan for us—that there are lessons we won’t learn without the experience of losing our way in a fog of one sort or another.

In the case of the abbess, her biographer believed that the agendas of those “in the world,” outside of the abbey’s walls, for a time came to overwhelm the voice of God within this abbess’s life. It’s as if a worldly fog enveloped the abbey, preventing the abbess from seeing the God who was there all the time. Only when the fog had lifted was she able to see again with clarity, and shape her life—and that of the abbey—appropriately.

Has this happened in your life? Have you lost your way in a fog of one sort or another? What did you lose sight of in that time? What did you learn in that process?

IMG_0824Are you perhaps lost in the fog now? If so, remember that God is there, even if you no longer see, or sense, that divine presence. We are never alone, but sometimes our sight is obscured for a time. Hunker down, as if you were a tree in winter. Focus on tending your roots, and waiting with patience. Spring winds will come, and blow that fog away….