I was diagnosed with myopia shortly after I started High School. I noticed that I was having trouble reading what the teacher was writing on the chalkboard. Worse, I couldn’t see the scoreboard from mid-court. So the coach had to yell out how much time was on the clock if I had the ball too far away from the game clock.
The solution for the classroom was for me to wear corrective lenses. But I never got accustomed to wearing glasses on the basketball court. This frustrated my coach, but at least it kept us talking during games.
As I grew older, my distance vision got worse, and a correction was the only option. After a few laser surgeries, including removing cataracts, I can pass the vision test when I renew my driver’s license. But I have to close one eye to do so.
I keep a pair of glasses in my truck that I often wear while driving at night. The crisper view further ahead of my path gives me comfort. The problem is that everything inside the truck is blurry. I have to remove my glasses to make out the directions on my GPS.
Seeing whatever is in front of our faces and recognizing things in the distance are both important. It’s hard to place one over the other. So I’m grateful for the sight that I have.
In a 2015 article for BBC, David Robson shares his discovery while researching why he needed an increasingly stronger prescription to see at a distance. His article sums up the possible causes for myopia in an increasing number of persons. “Short-sightedness is an industrial disease,” says Ian Flitcroft at Dublin Children’s University Hospital. 1
More research is necessary to help uncover the solution to prevent myopia. Meanwhile, the consensus is that spending more time outdoors correlates with better eyesight. The usual suspect of too much reading was ruled out by researchers. So keep on reading and spend time outdoors whenever possible.
But there’s another form of myopia that eyeglasses can’t correct. And it is nearsightedness that affects every one of us at different times. This myopia describes our reluctance to look out into the future beyond the choice facing us at the time. However, for many, the problem is not their physical limitations. Instead, they’re faced with a necessity to focus on the immediate. And don’t have the luxury of considering the future cost.
The story of Esau selling his birthright for a pot of stew reads like an episode in a situation comedy. The twin brother Jacob has a pot of lentil stew on the burner when Esau returns from a hunting trip hungry. The smell of dinner cooking aroused Esau’s desperation for a meal, and he pleaded with Jacob to share.
Unfortunately, Jacob was a plotter. You know the type. Usually, a step ahead when negotiating with unsuspecting victims and always calculating a way to gain an advantage. Esau was the firstborn in a culture that used birth order in determining inheritance. The penalty was steep for second place.
Jacob offered to share his stew with his brother, but there was a catch. “Trade me your inheritance, and the stew is yours,” said Jacob. What would possess a person to overpay by such a large amount just to satisfy their hunger at the moment? The answer, of course, is complicated.
The easy, stereotypical answer is that Esau simply wasn’t very bright. While Esau was strong and a skilled hunter, he sat in the classroom with other students struggling to grasp the lessons. Esau didn’t bother to consider the consequences or the cost, not seeing more than a few minutes ahead. This scenario puts Jacob in the role of predator, taking advantage of his not-so-smart brother. Undoubtedly, this scenario gets played out every day and billed as an ordinary course of doing business.
The more complex interpretation, which is more likely because it is widely applicable, involves human nature. We are all Jacob and Esau at different times, depending on our own circumstances.
First, let’s take Esau’s claim that he was hungry enough to be desperate at face value. Food is necessary for survival, and after missing enough meals, our body’s craving intensifies as a means of survival. Do you remember the long lines replayed on the evening news during the early days of the pandemic? Do you recall the near-empty shelves even in the big box grocery stores and meat and toilet paper rationing?
Parents are willing to sacrifice anything to feed their children. Hunger brings desperation that creates necessary nearsightedness intended to protect us from starvation. Our brain ensures that our focus is on satisfying our needs, and our creative energies collectively work on a solution. This scene gets played out every day in communities suffering from food insecurity.
Access to food involves both availability and the means of access. The pandemic reminded us that even if we have the money to purchase food, our money does us no good if the shelves are empty. And if we live in a community without a grocery store, we face obstacles that most people in this country don’t face.
But even if the shelves at the local grocery store are full, if we can’t afford to put the items in our cart to put a meal on the table, then full shelves do us no good.
Who is Jacob in this case?
When Esau returned from hunting hungry and had no apparent access to food, Esau’s power over Jacob as the firstborn shifted to Jacob, who now held power over Esau. Jacob used his power as barter to take Esau’s birthright from him. The question of right or wrong is an ongoing debate, and we take sides depending on our situation. And this part of the story is worth debating. But it’s not the only lesson found in this story.
“Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?”
Whenever we hold power over others, there is a temptation to use our power in ways that allow us to hold onto our power and sometimes to gain more. If you’ve spent time on the serving size of a soup kitchen, you’ve experienced a power imbalance. Are you willing to switch sides with those you’re serving? Are you willing to hand your soup ladle to the family that hadn’t eaten for a day?
It’s a rare person who would say yes to handing over their position of power and surrendering their security. Even if it meant that a stranger, or a family member, would no longer be in a position of depending on someone else for food. Fortunately, God doesn’t ask us to do this.
But it seems that God wants us to be aware of the power imbalance and safeguard against the temptation to exploit it. Moreover, we are called to share what we have, and to do so in ways that remove walls that power differentials create between us.
The scene that played out in the kitchen that day between Jacob and Esau had lasting consequences. A day of reckoning did come for Jacob as it does for you and me. Jacob used short-term desperation to exploit his brother. Esau took a myopic view of his circumstances that cost him dearly over the longer term.
I invite you to join us for worship during this season of Lent as we consider the ways that scripture addresses the subject of food. In addition, we’ll continue to celebrate Black History with celebrity guest interviews. We gather in the Asbury Arts Center in person and online on YouTube and Facebook. Video replays are available to watch later.
You can join us each Sunday online by going to the button on the homepage of our website – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
1 David Robson. “Why are we short-sighted?” © BBC January 16, 2015.