Something happens to me when I am with her. What is it? What name can I give to the transforming energy that shuts the door on mere relational duty and invites us to jointly search our hearts? There is no word or phrase that captures our common ground. I only know that I am grateful to shed the weary business of role-playing, and slip into something that feels like bare feet on dewy grass, or soft wind in my face. No pretense, or work, only cleansing freedom. I love it.
How often have I met someone who also desires to seek God, cherishes the potential of the written word, willingly confesses the scope of her soul, and dares to push limits of personal endurance to confront the heights of hope? Rarely. Are we not then soul mates?
Our friendship cannot be accidental or coincidental. Rather, Kathy’s presence in my life is a gift from God.
Kathy was a normal, active child until the age of six. At that time she began having visual difficulties, but her teacher thought her complaints were only pleas for attention. Months later it become obvious that Kathy’s retinas had begun to show signs of disease. No one knew at that time that they would continue to degenerate.
Kathy became a “research rat” who was subjected to various painful tests and procedures. During her childhood she endured these ordeals, assuming in her childlike, trusting way that they would correct her problem. Slowly, however, her vision digressed under the daunting diagnosis of Fundus Flavemaculatus, a morph of retinitis pigmentosa. It became obvious that she needed to attend a school for the blind and visually impaired, hundreds of miles from her home.
While her vision continued to fail in the direction of total blindness, Kathy was tempted by anorexia as a teenager and fell prey to the clutches of dark, inner despair. By the age of eighteen she had completely lost her sight. After counseling with her family’s pastor that year, however, she understood that she had choices to make. She could choose to implicitly hope in a faithful God to raise her above her circumstances, or succumb to a life of dependency and low expectation.
Kathy chose God.
Today Kathy is thirty-five years old. After graduating from the blind school, she earned an undergraduate degree from college and began teaching. She later earned a Master’s Degree and was awarded a variety of teaching awards. She is currently in her thirteenth year as an English teacher in a public high school, owns a beautifully furnished and decorated home, and stands as an example of fierce independence to all who know her. When asked how she fights the odds, how she compensates for her inadequacies, she always responds with one comment: “It’s a God thing.”
God is Kathy’s strength as she walks down the hallways at school with her guide dog. He is her emotional healer as she functions in a sighted world with the same performance expectations she would have for herself if she could see. He is her refuge when circumstances seem too big to handle. He is her source of peace, her inspiration, her Lord. He leads her to embrace all of life in spite of severe disability proving that she is more whole and functional than most sighted people I know.
Kathy’s example touches her students with more than academic knowledge. They observe, every day, what it means to persevere against enormous odds. They learn what it means to cling to hope when there is literally nothing else to give life parameters.
Kathy cannot see any shapes or contours - only a dull grayness when there is light in a room. And yet she has an uncanny ability to “recognize” the physical features of a person. After getting to know me, she asked if she could take a guess about my physical appearance. I was shocked as she accurately clicked off various features: short, sandy hair parted in the middle, olive skin tone, blue eyes. It is as if God gives her the ability to “see” beyond obvious dimensions.
Kathy also can “see” intuitively into the hearts of others. Her deep and abiding search for life in its fullest form leads her to relationships and opportunities where others fear to tread. Troubled teenagers flock to her. Colleagues marvel. Benefactors select her as recipients for their teaching awards. And friends…well, friends flourish because she knows what it means to love out of a dark place that has been illuminated by the Spirit of God.
I admittedly long for Kathy’s kind of “vision.”
Although challenged by various chronic health disorders resulting from the stress of her constantly busy lifestyle, Kathy never assumes the worst. Yes, she longs for a mate. Yes, she longs for the support of her own family. Yes, she longs for optimum health. But she has learned that faith means relying on God even when you can’t see the next step you must take…if only because He can see all the ones leading to an eternity with Him.
No wonder I feel it a privilege to call Kathy my friend. She has enlarged me. In the five years I have known her, she has changed me from the inside out. I now “see” more clearly what it means to live life from within the heart of God.
Dear Beth, thank you for your comment on my The Restless Seed. I just read your article, and my oh my...your Kathy friend is so very loved by God, and she is so lifted up by Him because she wants to be! I noted your line ...changed from the inside out.. Yes! I do believe my writing had that line. It's so enjoyable to write about our faith, and we all help each other along. God bless you,