The Sighted Guide

The scripture verse that I hang my hat on is Romans 8:28, "We know that in all things God works for the good for those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose." It is the "all things" part that is tricky. Sometimes we can only comprehend what God wants to teach us by living through our difficult times rather than trying to avoid them. He will not leave us or forsake us; we really can trust in him (Heb. 13:5).

The Lord is the only one who can see the road ahead of each of us. He is our "Sighted Guide," and in my first column here at Patheos, I'd like to explain this title more fully.

I speak what I know. When I was in my early 20s I lost my sight from diabetic retinopathy. 

It took a year for me to lose my sight completely. During that time, I fought against the daily ebbing-away of my vision with medical intervention -- both laser and major surgeries -- and a lot of prayer. It was exhausting physically, emotionally, and mentally to endure the procedures, but to face the daily dimming of my whole world was a particular challenge to my spirit.

Physically, I kept going, and kept busy. I continued my job as a Montessori teacher; I drove until I could no longer responsibly do so. I tried to simply go on with my life, but I never stopped thinking about what was happening to me. I looked at everything I could still see with great intensity, trying to brand things into my memory, but also into my heart -- the blueness of the sky, the color of new grass. I studied my photo albums over and over again, pressing each face, each smile, each shy or exuberant expression on the faces of my family members and friends into my memory like flowers between pages. Even today, all these years later, when I want to picture someone, these photographs come to my mind.

When I finally lost sight completely, I was very depressed, and angry. On New Year's Eve, I needed emergency surgery on one eye, and the next day I lay in my hospital bed and felt like I had reached the end of myself. I felt like during the past year of my life, as I had anticipated this great loss, I had been only an existence; I had not really been living. 

There, in the bed, I prayed -- really prayed -- for the first time in about three months. I had been so angry at God that He didn't answer my prayers, that he had not shown mercy and taken this cup from me. I had turned away from him, and now, at what was literally and figuratively my darkest hour, I was alone and scared and my anger owned me.

I now know that I had an immature faith.

But who wants to be owned by anger and fear? I did not! I finally "let go, and let God." I had to, if I wanted to have any sort of life. I prayed, "Lord, you know that I didn't want this, but if this is the way it has to be then I'll accept it. The only thing I ask is that you use this in my life for some purpose. I need to know that there is a reason for all of this. I let go, and give this to you. If you can use me as a blind person, then here I am. Please help me to live again, not just to exist." 

As I uttered that prayer of surrender, something opened up, within me; I felt a peace that I hadn't felt in a very long time. "A peace that passes all understanding." 

I truly felt God's presence in that hospital room with me -- a sweet consolation and assurance that gave me a whole new attitude. There was a life for me as a blind person. I just had to allow God to show me where I went from here. To lead me, in his way, out of darkness, and into his beautiful light.

Which is something we all need to do. You don't have to be blind to feel like you are in the dark, hands reaching out for guidance.

After that surrender, I needed to regain my independence -- that was very important to me. Believing that God had allowed this for a reason, and willing to be led by him to where he wanted me, I had to get back on my feet.

I found it challenging, in a good way, to learn to do things differently. Over time it seemed to me that in losing my sight and being forced out of what was familiar, I actually became less afraid to try new things. And, if I failed at whatever it was, well, I had an excuse. 

Today, there isn't much that I cannot or will not do, and I am extremely independent. In new, unfamiliar places I may need my dog, or a friendly arm, but this never deflates me or keeps me from venturing forth. I know I have nothing to fear, and everything to gain by trusting my heavenly, unerring sighted guide, who is a lamp before my feet, and a light on a path of safety.