I’d Rather be Blind: My Life after Afghanistan by Grant Lock (Melbourne: Broad Continent, 2016).
Treat yourself to a wonderful read. Grant Lock has written a book of personal reflection and observation influenced by his time serving as a director of an Afghan Eye Program for many years before returning to South Australia due to his own failing eyesight.
Each short chapter, jumps from present day to past day and back again as Grant skillfully paints a picture of what it was like serving in, at times, very difficult and dangerous circumstances. Then he skillfully draws on his experience to offer an insightful perspectives on the ways that we read the world in what is affluent and safe Australia.
His mix of poetry and narrative alongside an obvious gift for retelling stories with stunning clarity and voice makes this a thought-provoking book.
I laughed out loud as he recounts meeting a stranger enroute to the bathroom (Chapter 44) and as he found himself locked in a wrong toilet cubicle – a mishap among many due to his blindness (Chapter 58). I held my breath as he recounts a family outing in the Kirthar National Park with a suspect guide carrying a gun (Chapters 9-11) and then recoiled trying to imagine a horrifying meeting with a night-time rat (Chapter 12). I was nodding in agreement as he somewhat amusingly narrates his frustrating dealings with ‘Belstra’ (a fictional telecommunications company – named changed ‘to protect the innocent – or guilty’ (Chapter 54)). I found tears welling as he bears testimony to the faithful and selfless work of colleagues who had been murdered as they were ambushed on the way home from serving in their Mental Health Program in Afghanistan in 2014 (Chapters 1 and 64).
But two elements hit me most. First, Lock has humbly and graciously held up a mirror to Australian culture and questioned some of the values that we so easily hold close, effectively asking me as a reader if I am more shaped by my surroundings than my faith in Jesus Christ.
And second, he has pointed me to Jesus as Saviour both of me and my culture.
Read it for yourself. This is Grant Lock ‘Tsunami’ (Chapter 57) – he says it well.
What kind of God is this?
But have you ever thanked him for the kiss of the morning sun rising on purple-headed mountains?
Earthquakes! He must be a God of death!
But have you ever thanked him for each breath your diaphragm automatically takes when you’re fast asleep? And when you are awake?
Fire, flood, drought! Uncaring God!
I hear your shout, but do you ever pause to give him praise for all the years and months and days that thus far you’ve been given?
Earth trembles in resonant grief.
‘Remember me, Lord!’ cries the thief. Crowd jeers. He fights for breath. High Priest leers. Sun bows its head. Yes, we all must face the sting of death.
Spear pierces corpse’s side. Ha, that’s the end of him! Dismal, deluded liar. He lied, said he could forgive our sin, thought he was God. Crazy clown! Did you see how he looked at that thief and grinned?
On the third day, he rose from the dead. Drew near, smiled and said, I am Life. Come, enjoy my wine! Celebrate! Suffer! Share my bread! And now I know he’s the ever-green vine and I am forever his twig.
And that’s big man!