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  • Writer's pictureDan Stanford

Inspiration from a Horse Called Joey

I'd like to tell you about Joey, a blind horse who managed to capture hearts with his unique story. But first, I have a confession: I might be the only Christian who doesn’t love the song, “Amazing Grace.” It’s because of the line, “I once was blind, but now I see.” I realize it’s a metaphor but still, I’m not a fan.

Several years ago, my wife was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome Type2 with Retinitis Pigmentosa. It’s hard to say and an even harder phrase to live with. It means she is progressively losing her eyesight as well as her hearing. She has lost as much as 12-17% of her vision each year and now has about 13% visual field index remaining. Her world is growing darker and she doesn’t have the option of just flipping a switch and turning the lights back on. I say that my wife’s eyes are like stained glass windows: beautiful to look at, terrible to look through.

It’s hard for me to sing “I once was blind, but now I see” when in the Gospels, Jesus handed out 20/20 vision like a theater gives 3D glasses. It’s one of Jesus’ most common miracles. No one walked away from him blind. My wife would be thrilled with just the miracle of bifocals if they made a difference, she’s not greedy. But in spite of all our prayers, her eyesight continues to dim.

I’ve read a lot about blindness, trying to understand all that my wife deals with. I’ve noticed there’s plenty of ignorance about disabilities. Like the time when Ryan Seacrest tried to high-five a blind guy who had just done well on America’s Got Talent or the person who complained “disabled parking should only be valid during business hours, 9-5, Monday through Friday. I cannot see any reason why people with genuine disabilities would be out beyond these times.” A disabled person responded, “we are disabled, not werewolves.”

In my research, I recently read Jennifer Marshall Bleakley book, Joey. This true story is about a horse named Joey who is blind. The book begins with identifying that Joey is rescued from a ranch where he was neglected and almost died. After being nursed back to health, he is moved to a therapy ranch called Hope Reigns. In spite of Joey’s disability, he intuitively brings hope and healing to hurting kids. I’ve never been a big horse person. I grew up with a dad who thought he was a cowboy. He wore Wrangler Jeans and a Stetson hat, smoked Marlboro Cigarettes, loved Old Spice cologne and owned a couple of horses. My bad experience resulted from having the chore to clean out the stalls and a horse named Mosby ran me into a couple of trees and even stopped, dropped and rolled while I was still on his back. I was almost a Dan-cake. However, I fell in love with Joey. He reminds us that we don’t always get to love people from a place of health and happiness. But we can still make a difference in the lives of the people around us.

While I don’t appreciate the “Amazing Grace” lyrics about vision, I do love this verse: “Through many dangers, toils and snares, We have already come, ’Twas grace has brought us safe thus far, And grace will lead us home.” Like Joey, my wife serves others in spite of having every excuse to sit back and expect others to serve her. In 2020, our town was devastated by racism and riots broke out in response. Several lives and local businesses in underprivileged neighborhoods were destroyed. My wife, who still has some of her central vision, volunteered to design a website for a non-profit effort to help bring healing and restoration to our city. Like Joey, she uses what abilities she does have to better her corner of the world. One of our favorite quotes comes from Nick Vujicic, “If he (God) does not give me the miracle, he is going to make me a miracle for someone else.” Maybe God won’t heal my wife’s eyes, but like Joey she can help open the eyes of the people around her.

If you are needing some encouragement to be a miracle for others, pick up the book, Joey, and be prepared to fall in love. (I've made it easy for you with the link below.)

Dan Stanford

Author of Losing the Cape: The Power of Ordinary in a World of Superheroes

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