Sometimes blessings aren’t easy to recognize in the moment, or in this case, within a couple decades.
I received a question today from a wonderful lady I have the pleasure of working with during my time here in Australia. No harm was meant by her curiosity, I doubt she could hurt a fly even if she tried, but the familiar question evoked a familiar reaction–for when it’s asked, salt tends to be sprinkled on the same wound I’ve had since ’92.
“Can I ask what’s wrong with your eye?”
Small wince, deep breath, smile. Here we go.
I enter into survival mode, pull myself together and every fiber tightens as I aim to look as unaffected as possible. Do you have an ailment? A physical change you wish to see happen each time you peer into the mirror? Get dressed? Meet someone new? Yes, well, this is mine.
I was 18 months old when they discovered a bit of a growth on my right eye, benign, praise God, but an obstruction none-the-less that prompted surgery. A surgery in which revealed a larger cyst than the specialists had originally wagered, my entire lens was removed as a result.
To add to the excitement, my retina happened to detach in the process. Talk about a full-on day, by the end of it, I was one of 11 cases in the country facing the same optical issues. One stitched-up retina, one lens still intact and one week in the hospital later, I went home with my concerned parents and began the journey that would become my life.
Glasses the size of coke bottle bottoms, questions from kids at school about why my eyes don’t always look right, having to battle, grovel and fight the DMV tooth and nail for years as we danced around the question of having adequate vision to drive.
The challenges varied, and with each episode that drew attention to this insecurity, my guard grew more rigid, my heart unknowingly hardened as I fought to be ok, to be above this. For crying out loud, it was just my lot in life and it could be so much worse and I needed to get over it, right?
As I grew up and out of my teen years, my faith deepened considerably. Christianity was no longer about who I should be or what I could do, but about the only relationship that had the power to save me from the hurdles now in view as I rapidly approached adulthood at a rapid pace.
I began to know Him more intimately than I had ever deemed imaginable as the curly-haired girl growing up in Sunday school, and with that deepening relationship, came the freedom and willingness to ask the hard questions.
If our God is one who has the power to heal and loves to do so for His kids, then why, despite numerous occasions I had been showered in prayer, did He continue to decide to leave me be? Damaged. Handicapped. Lacking.
It took me 22 years to stare this partial blindness head-on and ask my God, Lord of the Universe, the question I never thought a “good” Christian would ask: Why?
Over two decades it took to hoard up the courage to actually admit resentment, to speak–out loud, with words–about how I felt about the whole thing, my deepest frailty. I received the advice to sit in it, sit in it, was this man of God’s counsel.
I stared in disbelief as I mentally countered the idea with the same tactics I used all these years on autopilot to navigate my way through the pain being stirred up: bury it, find a way to get happy again, tell yourself it’s not important, you’re fine, be happy. You’re fine.
The thing was, this time, I wasn’t fine. I knew this trusted man in my life had the ability to see straight through me to what God’s purpose could be in this whole mess; so sit in it I grudgingly did. For days.
What was found in this process mere months ago, is that I’m not fixed, I may never be. I always hoped that God’s desire would be to use this part of me, to just make it worth the pain.
What I attained rather, in following Him blindly into one of the most striping phases of my life, is that this struggle with my sight was never meant to be a piece of broken glass to get discarded–it was one that be added, alongside the more acceptable pieces, in creating the mosaic that is my life.
This is His plan for us, to make clean what we see as never being salvageable, to heal the places within us we don’t dare bring to the surface, to love, love us with passion ablaze that cannot be replicated.
I ended my conversation with my chum from work in saying with a smile what I am grateful for living with this issue, for having a perfect left eye, for getting to drive, for knowing now how much deeper my worth in this world is now.
The beauty is, that for one of the first times, I actually meant it.
Be brave, friends. Don’t be afraid to cry out to the One who created you and ask why, to yell through the tears wondering the reason your life is unfolding the way it is. I believe now, more than ever before, in His ability to take our complaints head-on and uncover, in love, what the underlining issue actually is.
Take heart. You’re known, inside and out. You’re adored and no part of you was overlooked in the formation of your life. Healing is coming, dear one, wholeness is here.
I’ll be seeing you.
words by Samantha Stowell | photo by Tayjoy Photography
She goes by Sam, but Samantha will certainly do. A 24 year old, undeniably extroverted, forever optimistic, wine-connoisseur and adventure seeker. She has a passion for people, food and writing and created her blog, LivePraiseRepeat, as a space to share blurbs about life and why a grateful heart is the key component to participating in it fully. Her desire is to be nothing but faithful to Jesus Christ and give thanks for all He enables this life to hold on the daily.
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