“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
For years, this has been my favorite scripture. I have it memorized and repeat it to myself regularly. It reminds me that I’m not always in control of my life or that of those around me. God has a plan, if I’ll just sit back and let Him take the lead.
For those of you that know me well, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Yea right! That’s not the Whitney I know.” I’ll be the first to admit this is not always easy for me, hence the need to memorize and repeat frequently.
Two words of this scripture stick out to me, hope and future. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Synonyms include aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal and plan. Maybe I confuse hope with faith, but I’ve never been one to hope for a certain outcome. I’ve always been much more likely to hope for whatever God has intended. But according to this definition, maybe what I think of as hope is actually faith. In any case, hope and faith go hand in hand for me.
Hoping for certain outcomes or having specific expectations seems to take God and His plan out of the equation. You can desire an outcome and dream of the life you want, but are you prepared for God’s answer to be “No” or “Not right now.”?
Even people who seemingly go through life playing by the rules, making good decisions and striving to be good Christians go through unexplainable struggles. Things happen along the way that don’t seem to make sense…illness, death, heartbreak, financial troubles, etc..
Things may happen that are out of my control, but how I react and what I do with those circumstances is up to me.
Shortly after the birth of my first child, I was diagnosed with retinal lattice degeneration. This is a disease of the eye where the retina becomes atrophic in a lattice pattern and may develop tears, breaks or holes, which may further progress to retinal detachment causing blindness. It’s a genetic condition that is present in about 6% of the population. Of that 6%, only 1% will suffer an actual detachment. So for every 1 million people 600 will experience a retinal detachment. And you guessed it…I’m the winner!
I’ve worn glasses and contacts since the age of 12 but never dreamed an underlying condition could one day take my sight completely. For 12 years, my condition was monitored closely and each time I was told there was no progression of disease.
Then on July 9, 2012, in the course of 10 minutes, I went blind in my left eye.
After 3 physician opinions and an emergency trip to Lexington, I entered surgery at St Joseph East Hospital on July 11 not knowing what the outcome would be but knowing that it was my only hope.
There were no other options.
I underwent a scleral buckle procedure on my left eye and laser surgery on the right. I’ll save the gruesome surgical details but you can easily learn more online. My full recovery took months and only after 6 months, did we have a full understanding of where my vision progress would plateau. And even then, there were various combinations of contacts and glasses used to further improve my vision. To this day, I am legally blind in my left eye without the use of contacts or glasses. Let’s just say the mornings I knock my glasses off the nightstand are fun.
Through all of this I can honestly say God blessed me with a very strong sense of peace, particularly in the 2 days leading up to the surgery. During the drive to Lexington, while lying flat on my back as instructed by the doctors, I had a conversation with my brother I’ll never forget.
As word spread, my brother called to see what was happening and how he could help. We talked for a while and then he said, “How are you so calm? Aren’t you scared? What if you’re blind now?”
At the time I couldn’t explain it to him but I wasn’t. That’s not to say I wasn’t scared of the surgery or the recovery. I also wondered about the future and what life would be like for my family if I were to go blind.
However, with 100% certainty, I can tell you I knew everything was going to happen just as God intended.
As I write this, I’m sitting in my front yard under my favorite tree. This has been my family home since 1975. In fact, in 1976 my father took a picture of me with this exact same tree. In 2006, my husband and I purchased the house from my parents. It overlooks Ritter Park and the Rose Garden. The American Planning Association featured this area in its 2012 annual list of “10 Great Public Spaces.”
It’s a beautiful spring day. The flowers and trees are in bloom. The grass is a beautiful bright green. Families and individuals are enjoying the park, and my son and his friends are playing baseball just across the street where I can watch.
I am extremely thankful that it wasn’t in God’s plan to take my eyesight two years ago. However, if that day ever comes, I know there is a higher purpose in the loss of my sight. I’m sure I won’t see the blessing in the moment but feel certain it will be revealed in time.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-10 (NIV)