One thing that probably only my closest family members know about me is that my eyesight is not good. By not good, I don’t mean that I have to wear glasses like all can see that for themselves. I mean, really not good. I began wearing glasses in second grade. I guess my parents were told when I was in kindergarten that I needed glasses, but since I wasn’t really reading words off a chalk board at the front of the room yet, the adults decided to wait to get them for me. They didn’t want me to be teased for having glasses. (I never understood what the big deal was. They’re just glasses!)
I was always assigned a seat at the back of the classroom because I was a head taller than everyone. One day Nikki, a fellow classmate who sat several rows ahead of me, told the teacher that she couldn’t read the board. The teacher sent her to the school nurse to have her eyes checked and soon Nikki came back to school wearing glasses. Hmmm…. I couldn’t read the board either. I didn’t realize I was supposed to be able to read it without going up to the front of the classroom. I told the teacher that I couldn’t read the board. She thought I was just trying to copy Nikki and didn’t believe me. But I insisted and I was eventually sent to the school nurse who checked my vision and immediately told my parents to take me to the eye doctor. At seven years old, I couldn’t read the big “E” at the top of the chart.
I’ll never forget the day I got glasses. The whole world looked weird to me. Everything was so sharp and bright. It made me feel a little woozy. We were driving home and I noticed that I could see individual leaves on the trees. When we went to church, I could actually see the expression on the faces of those on stage – even from the back of the sanctuary! I could even read the board at school. I was amazed. I had no idea what I’d been missing. I just figured everyone had to get a little closer to see what they wanted to see.
In fifth grade I got contacts. I was thrilled. I wore contacts every day from then on. I couldn’t swim under water with them, but that was easy to give up for the joy of being able to see without wearing glasses.
My eyesight has gotten progressively worse throughout my life. In high school I was terrified to go to the eye doctor because I was sure there would come a time when they could no longer correct my vision enough. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, my eyesight had deteriorated to a prescription of -10. I think legally blind is -4. At the point where you reach -4, there isn’t really anything you can see clearly at a distance of about a foot in front of your face. I could see just fine close up (like really close up), but everything else was a total blur. On top of that, my contacts started giving me problems. My eye doctor told me I was becoming “contact lens intolerant.” I was horrified. Glasses at that strength are hideous. There is NOTHING you can do with cool frames to make them look decent. They distort your eyes, so when people look at you through the lenses, your eyes either appear gigantic or really, really small. Even the newest, lightest, fanciest lenses looked awful.
My mom and I had been researching and discussing Lasik vision correction surgery with doctors for years. It was expensive and experimental for a long time, and doctors were always trying to get me to participate in some trial study. I was not willing to let them test out their theories on my eyes! Finally, the surgery was approved and deemed safe. My parents generously paid for it. (They didn’t want to have to look at me through bottle cap glasses either…) It was not a pleasant experience to be sure, but it worked. Within a month of the surgery, I could read the 20/20 line on the chart with no assistance. It was shadowy and looked a little funny, but I was thrilled!
The doctor explained to me that I would never see like someone who isn’t near-sighted, even with the surgery. I’d had a hard time with depth-perception when the room wasn’t well-lit before and that would continue to be a problem for me. I had a bit of an astigmatism which couldn’t be fixed with surgery, so things would always be a little shadowy. Lights had never been pinpoints for me, but rather more like starbursts and that would remain the same. Those things were disappointing to hear, but I didn’t let it bother me. I had 20/20 vision and didn’t have to wear contacts or glasses. That was all that really mattered.
What the surgery wasn’t able to do was prevent my eyes from continuing to change as the years progress. I was told by a doctor when I was younger that my eyesight would stop getting worse when I stopped growing. He lied. Every year my eyesight gets a little bit worse than the year before. It’s slowed down a lot, but it’s still changing. It’s very hard for me to wear contacts now. They reshaped my eye in such a way that contacts don’t fit it well. I’ve tried a few brands, but they tend to be more of a bother than a help. So I wear glasses. I try to choose fun frames that compliment my features and look a little funky. My prescription right now is -1, so if I don’t have them on I’m not crippled – just not seeing things sharply. I figure in a few years I might go in for surgery again and see if they can do a little more reshaping to get me back to 20/20. In the meantime, I have no problem with the light-weight, thin lenses that I wear. I’m so thankful that they aren’t thick bottle-caps!
I’m telling you all this because I had a thought this morning about our relationship with God and trusting Him. I don’t see well in the dark. I really hate to drive in unknown, dimly lit places at night. It’s no problem if I know where I’m going, but if it’s unfamiliar, I have to drive slow and work hard to keep panic down. My eyes play tricks on me and often it’s hard to tell if the road is ending or where it’s going and I slam on the brakes in panic. Yeah, I know, you’re not riding with me at night any more! (I rarely offer to drive in those cases.)
When I was 20 years old, I had this boyfriend who liked to go for walks at night. On a paved road, that’s fine, but he liked to trek through fields and down dirt roads. Because I can’t see well, this does not work for me. Again with the panic… I’m sure I’ll step into a big hole somewhere and never be heard from again. Or maybe just sprain my ankle yet again… So this boyfriend won’t be deterred. We are going to go for walks at night on uneven terrain and that’s all there is to it. (Before you start lecturing me on standing up for myself and not letting any boy tell me what to do, keep reading…) This boy taught me to trust him on those walks. He gave me his arm, which I clung to, and told me what was coming up ahead. He made sure I didn’t stumble or fall into any holes, and eventually I was able to relax and walk beside him, knowing he would take care of me. I was pretty dependent on him on those walks and if he’d left me out there, I would’ve had a hard time getting back. But he never did. He was a good guy and he taught me a lot through those walks.
Today I was reading in 1 Corinthians 3 about how God uses the foolish things to confound the wise so that we know it’s Him who does the great things in our lives. I had an image of myself walking along a deeply rutted dirt road at night, clinging to the arm of Jesus, trusting Him to guide me on each and every step. It’s not exactly a fun place to be, fighting down panic and hoping I don’t twist my ankle or fall into a hole or anything like that. But I’m also there with Jesus, the lover of my soul, who speaks in a soothing voice and knows exactly where we’re headed and how long it will take and just how to tell me to take each step. And even though I’m uncomfortable and have very little control over the situation, the panic subsides, I relax, and Jesus guides me every step of the way.
Every day He’s teaching me to depend more and more on Him and I’m getting a little more comfortable with it as time goes on. And somehow He’s taking the things like my bad eyesight to teach me the trust I need. He uses every little thing in my life and I’m thankful for that. I’ll keep praying for Him to heal my eyes, as I’ve done since I was a little girl, and keep believing that He’s able and one of these days He will do it. But I also trust that He is made strong in our weakness and I thank Him that I have eyes to see at all.