As a mom, there’s no hurt like the hurt you feel when your child experiences pain, disappointment, tragedy, loss…I can’t explain how it tore me up to hear the ophthalmologist tell my son, Elijah, that his grade had gone up to 400/425 — 400 for the left eye and 425 for the right eye. It wasn’t so much about the grade, although I was shocked that it had progressed to that degree since his last eye check-up at 7 years old. It was more of the disappointment I saw in his face and the sadness he felt when he heard the news.
The reality is that his condition is genetically inherited. I first discovered he was near-sighted when he was about 6 years old. He couldn’t read a billboard that was very visible to me. So it occurred to me back then that something was wrong with his eyes. Edric has glasses but his grade isn’t too bad. I am still 20/20. So Elijah probably got it from my dad who is also near-sighted.
When Elijah was 7, his grade was already over 200. But we thought it would stay that way for a while. He’s just 9 now. I dread to think of what his grade will progress to by the time he is 13. According to the ophthalmologist, his eyesight is going to get worse (whether he wears glasses or not) and there is really nothing that can be done, except changing his eyeglasses every year. By 19 or 20, when he stops growing, he can have laser surgery for his eyes. (Praise God for modern technology.)
After the verdict about his eyes at the doctor’s clinic, I watched Elijah settle in a corner as he tried to remain composed. But I know my son. This was difficult for him. He was not okay. His eyes were getting red and watery and he didn’t want to make eye contact. I pulled him close and asked if he wanted to talk about it. He replied, “In private.”
Okay, I understood. The doctor went on to say that he may “have a hard time in school.” (I guess he meant reading stuff off a black board.) We told him that Elijah was a homeschooled kid. (Another blessing.)
Edric helped him pick out new glasses, which we will pick up on Saturday. And we both took him out to lunch to give him attention. Elijah is very much a time person so he opens up when you share a meal with him, when you walk together, or when you are sitting down next to him reading or discussing a book. Over lunch, he began to explain his feelings. He shared how disappointed he was because God had not answered his prayer. His prayer has been that God would make his eyes better. The other thing he was concerned about was going blind. My poor son was afraid that he would completely lose his eyesight. We both hugged him and assured him that God loved him and that we loved him – that we were going to do our best to take care of him no matter what.
Elijah loved the Persian food we had for lunch. His stomach was satisfied and he enjoyed our company. It was an opportune moment to help him process how he was feeling. Edric shared with him that God has a plan for everything. He reminded Elijah that if he wanted to, God could easily cure his eyes, but he hasn’t. We have to trust him. He reminded Elijah that when we pray for something and God doesn’t answer our prayer, he has a purpose.
There was another instance like this in the past when Elijah was also disappointed with God. Five years ago, Elijah prayed very hard to have a baby sister. During the ultra sound, he was allowed to come in to watch the sonologist. With big faith and confidence in God, he couldn’t wait to hear her say that we were having a girl. But the sonologist announced that we were having a boy – our third son (Titus). Elijah couldn’t contain himself. He burst into tears. “I prayed, Daddy! How come God didn’t answer my prayer?”
I wasn’t in any state to comfort him. Seeing him so wrecked about the news made me feel like crying, too. I was excited to have another boy but I feared for Elijah’s tender faith. Edric took him outside of the room and wonderfully explained to him that God always has a good plan. Eventually, our little Elijah understood what this meant and he embraced Titus as his youngest brother. Three years later, God gave us Tiana. Everything worked out according to God’s time-table.
Yesterday, Elijah was once again at a crucial point in his faith journey. As he wrestled with his disappointment with God, he was emotionally vulnerable to doubts about God’s goodness. His outlook on the future was also bleak. God had to make Elijah recognize that he had to choose to trust in him and thank him for this unchangeable in his life.
After lunch, I reaffirmed what Edric shared with Elijah. All of us go through difficulty and trials. No one is exempt. But if our perspective is right, then our thinking is right, and our behavior will also be right. But if we have the wrong perspective, our thinking will be wrong, and our behavior will be affected by wrong thinking… For example, if our perspective on God is that he is good and that he loves us then we can believe that he has a plan and purpose for our lives. And as a result, we can choose to be joyful, happy, and thankful despite our circumstances. Elijah listened to this and received it well.
Edric and I spent a good three hours with Elijah yesterday and something magical happened in those hours. Elijah’s attitude changed. On our way home, he was smiling his big, bright smile. He was chatty and positive, and he was raving about the food we at. He’s back, I thought to myself. Thank you, Lord! Elijah told us he had a great time, that he loved the food and most especially, he felt better because we got to talk about how he was feeling “in private.”
As a writing assignment, I asked him to do a blog entry about his experience at the ophthalmologist. This is what he wrote:
Today (September 5) I had my eyes checked and the grade of my eyes had risen double in the past three years. I felt disappointed because, before I had my checkup we prayed that my eyes would be better. But God had a different plan. He had a bigger plan. He loves me, so he will only do things to help me. And someday (or soon) God will fulfill his plan.
All of us have our own dreams for ourselves, but God has the best plans for us. I really wanted my eyes to get better, but I know that God can’t just make eyes better, he can make them perfect. It may not happen, but I know that God loves me. He will not allow anything bad to happen to me.
I want to be thankful because at least, I can still see!
In heaven, my eyes will be perfect and I will see better. This is the verse I want to share in Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.”
Over breakfast this morning, I said to him, “You seem so positive and different than yesterday when you found out. What changed?” “I know God has a plan,” was his sincere reply. Does he still feel sad about his eyes? Yes. But he is choosing to believe in the goodness of God.