Twisting and bending ever-so slightly in the curtained bathtub shower, I stretched out my arm, groping for the conditioner through the steamy fog. Early-morning musings evaporated as a sharp pain shot up my arm, into my head. My arm fell limply at my side.
Staring at my lifeless limb, confusion replaced shock. “A stroke?” I whispered. “I’m twenty-six; I can’t be having a stroke.”
Any slight movement of my head launched a searing, white-hot missile throughout my brain and spinal cord. I knew I’d never be able to reach the rotary dial of my wall-mounted phone in the kitchen.
Focusing on the goal, I breathed slower and deeper, reducing the bursts of pain. I sprawled out on the floor, inching each bit of clothing in place. Finally, I was dressed.
Crawling out to the stairway, I scooted my body up and out to the car. Animal-like groans escaped my grimacing face throughout the short distance to the hospital.
Thus began months of painful treatments for my swelling brain. When vision loss joined the parade of agonies, the surgeons went to work, implanting a pump to control the fluid levels in my brain. For a time, I was partially blind, though use of my arm had returned within hours of the initial assault.
Friends asked, “Do you think this happened to you because you told us at Bible Study that you didn’t think you’d be able to praise the Lord if you ever lost your eyesight?”
How many times this very thought had invaded my pain-wracked nights. Others in our young group had not seen any consequences of naming their own particular concern, so was it just my bad luck?
While much of my sight returned, the residual loss allowed me tuition-free study at the University of my choice. Naturally, I chose the one topping the list in my field; something I’d never have been able to afford.
Shortly after graduation, the Lord reminded me of my childhood decision to one day work as a medical missionary in Africa. Now, equipped to fulfill this dream, I responded.
After a few years on a circuitous journey, at last, I planted roots on the Dark Continent. Three and a half years into my work in the jungle clinic, without sickness or warning, my eyesight was gone.
Here we go again, I told myself, images of the early-morning shower and long road of pain filled my thoughts. However, the origin was something else; the course totally different. The one constant in the equation: the God who had carried me through nineteen years earlier, was still on the job. I knew He had a plan; He always did.
Six years later, our mission moved across the country, exchanging jungle life for underdeveloped urban sprawl. Many skeletally-thin little kids roamed the unpaved streets, instead of being in school. I cringed every time someone spoke of another little group, as we drove by.
Another six years passed. I received an award from Hadley School for the Blind. The honor led to me being in just the right place, at just the right time, to receive a phone call from a man I’d never met.
Two months later, my colleague and I had $25,000 with the charge to “help kids in Africa.” The doors of the Samaritan House Children’s Center opened a few months of hard work later.
For the past seven years (and $250,000), dozens of children have eaten a hot meal as they finish their school day, receiving medical care as needed. Another dream fulfilled.
Now, nearly forty years since the excruciating experience in the shower, while I believe that God never caused this to happen because I said I couldn’t praise Him if I was blind, I am confident God used it to show me that, with His grace, I could. Having come through the first loss of vision, I had full confidence in God to bring me through it again.
God had a beautiful plan that would mature me and give me the desires of my heart. For each step, He prepared me for what lay ahead. My loving Father didn’t spare me the trials and pain that moved me along to fulfill His plan. He tenderly sustained me through it.
What does it mean to surrender all to God? Each experience has been set into the timeline of my life, in order that the Lord’s purposes for my life were fulfilled. In God’s plan, I’ll never get the short end of the stick.
This is a true story.
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