"I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. I can see all the obstacles in my way..." This song has bumped around in my head for more than a week since I had the privilege to witness a miracle: a friend's eye surgery. Now don't get me wrong--I'm not a blood, guts, and body parts junkie by any means! Watching people get cut open on TV or in life is nowhere on my bucket list, but Anne wanted or needed to know someone was there for her...watching. And once I got past the thoughts of "Ugh! Ouch!" and I began to realize the miracle that was taking place, it was downright amazing!
Only a glass wall separated me from the operating room. The doctor, anesthesiologist, and two nurses were clad in blue scrubs and Anne was draped in blue sheets. A small television hung in the corner showing a screen-size view of an eye--Anne's eye. The undertones of surgery seemed louder than life--the whir and hiss of unidentified machines, and the clink of tools—I still wasn’t confident that I wanted to witness this. The anesthesiologist looked my way and nodded, eye crinkling, a smile hidden behind his mask. His nod was somehow an odd assurance. Not only could I see them but they could see me, and I suddenly felt less like an intruder and more like a welcome observer.
The doctor bent over Anne's face, tools in hand. On the screen, the scalpel gently cut into the eye and another wand slid in under the cornea I think,flushing the iris and pupil with water. She cut again and suddenly, a film began to break up. The whir suddenly became a roar as the second nurse took instrument in hand and went toward Anne's face. On the screen, the tip of the tool moved toward the fractured film and inhaled it. Without a word, the surgical team worked together like a well-oiled machine. The doctor cut again, one nurse flushed, the other suctioned the remants from the eye. I couldn't tell you the medical details of all that was taking place. I didn't know that much about cataracts or the surgery. When I was a child, people lived out the rest of their days in darkness because of cataracts. Surgery then was rare--more for the wealthy or insured--and at best, only a temporary solution. Cataracts often grew back. As I watched, I realized cataract surgery has become so commonplace today that we don't often recognize the miracle that is taking place. We don’t stop to think how it brings clarity, color, and life to those whose vision have become faded, dim, and unclear.
Layer upon layer, this "film" was broken up and inhaled. I was stunned that Anne's cataract was that dense. No wonder that she couldn’t see--I hadn't realized how limited her vision really was. The last layer proved to be a little tougher but it too was torn and inhaled. The doctor had removed the old diseased lens. Suddenly, light filled the center of Anne’s eyes and it gleamed with a golden glow. It was beautiful. The magnitude of this moment touched me to the core. The doctor replaced the old lens with a brand new lens created especially for Anne. She would no longer even need glasses. I could see the clearness of her eye now, every line in the iris distinct and the pupil was defined. Her eye wasn’t so jaded anymore. The doctor patched the eye, offered Anne some assurances, and the surgery was over.
I went back to the waiting room in awe. This surgery would offer Anne a new life and new confidence. Her world wouldn’t be quite so small anymore. She would be able to see—to read, to watch television, and to “hear.” You see, Anne is almost deaf and also depended on her eyes to read lips. She had lost much more than her sight.
My heart was pounding as I waited to see Anne, thanking God that He would give her such a blessing. Unexpectedly, He gently whispered to me, “But do you understand now why YOU are here? Take hold of it. Do you recognize that you’ve had “cataract surgery” of another kind? It has taken six long years but light has finally dawned in your eyes too..."
I took Anne back the next morning. She was anxious and excited. She insisted I go in with her. The doctor carefully removed the patch and Anne almost fell out of the chair! The doctor was reassuring her, "I know...the light is bright." But Anne was exclaiming with her heavy Scottish lilt, "I can see! I can see! Oh my God, I can see! It's so clear! I never would have believed it! I've never had eyes like this before!" The doctor could do nothing else but sit back and wait. I think she was holding back tears as much as I was. I don't think any of us expected Anne's strong reaction. I have no doubt the doctor must have been blessed, knowing in that moment why she had chosen this specialty in medicine. I thought, "God, You must feel like that when we finally say, 'I can see! I can see!'"
I felt His whisper again, "Do you get it now? Layer by layer, I broke through the darkness. I have given you new eyes, new sight...a whole new life. You are not the person you were..."
I’ve lived with shadows most of my life...I don't really know when they became permanent tag-alongs but their presence has dimmed my vision and outlook on life. My faith became distorted and out of focus--harsh and legalistic. For years, I didn’t understand it. I was trying to doing everything I was supposed to do but I was still hurting...still lost. I knew Scripture and yes, I had faith. I clung to it for dear life...literally. But I had lost hope. It was only in recent years that it was defined for me. You see, I live with major depressive disorder (severe depression in layman’s terms) and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Layer upon layer, it formed unchecked. Hurtful events, mortal wounds, hateful life-defining words, secrets, impossible standards, rejection, fear, deadly choices, self-loathing, shame, so many babies, religion, cancer, death, grief, rape, more secrets, a destructive marriage, pain, divorce, scars, suicide, and still more shame--each one adding to the density of the “cataracts” on my life. Blinded and overwhelmed, I could no longer see life, love, or faith clearly. My vision had become so distorted and fractured that it didn't make sense...like a Picasso painting.
Finally, life as I knew it--the facade--fell apart, my mind and heart were shattered. I wanted to die. Pride gave way and I got in counseling and life began again as we cut through the mess of my life. I was encouraged to go to a non-traditional church. I swore I'd never be a part of a church again...God had His way instead. I went to a little warehouse church called The Mission. "There's a reason you're here..." Those words were the first hints of hope and incentive to keep on working. Healing didn't come easily. I can't tell you how many times I had setbacks, how many times I tried to give up, how many times the old life sought to draw me back in, and how many more times God put someone in my path here to pull me back and push me onward. So many wounds buried deep so that I didn't have to face them but now each one was exposed to His Light. "He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and Light dwells with Him." (Daniel 2:22 NIV)
Layer by layer, counselors and these new Mission friends faced the shadows with me. They were His surgical team; and with Him, they worked in unison like that well-oiled machine, even though they may not have realized their role. The only "truth" I had known was my enemy and my downfall--but that "truth" was an imposter, piling on layers of legalism, lies, and pretense. A new truth--God's Truth--tore away the old and inhaled it. Grace washed my eyes, clearing any remnant left behind. Acceptance cut through another layer as these people showed me what Christ sees in me Those life-defining words and recordings were cleared away and I began to feel again, though feeling wasn't always pleasant. Just as Anne's doctor had to scrape the scum from her eye, all the finally-loosed grief and tears that had long been held painfully chipped away at the callousness of my heart and self-hatred. Tears and brokenness were needed as the old lens of my life was shredded and removed...New light gleamed as I began to learn a new way to live--new coping skills,new boundaries, new thoughts, new hope. A brand new lens replaced my old diseased one--TRUTH. And because of it, I've finally learned to accept and receive His grace.
Yesterday, after over six years, I had my final counseling session (more than three with this counselor) It was a time of bittersweet reflection laced with hope and grace. To be honest, the road ahead is frightening to me without that safe assurance. But I'm stronger--I can see more clearly--and I'm looking forward to what lies before me. The patch has come off and I can see today like I've never seen before. I can't say that all my circumstances have changed or all the bad memories have vanished. They are part of my story and I'm still a work in progress. But I cope with difficulties differently now. I can see all the obstacles in my way and those memories in a different light. I can be real today--no more pretending. And when I'm afraid, I'm not alone in my darkness. His light filters through my dim sight and becomes bright and new each day. I'm truly not the person I used to be--that old "sheri" is just a shadow of the past. Today I am loved, I am accepted, and I am forgiven. Those who have walked with me these last six years know those words don't come lightly or easily but "surgery" has been worth the price I paid...the price Jesus paid. He IS my miracle.
And borrowing Anne's own words, "I can see! I can see! Oh my God, I can see! It's so clear! I never would have believed it! I've never had eyes like this before!"
"But me He caught—reached all the way from sky to sea; He pulled me out of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning. They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me. He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!
God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before Him. When I got my act together, He gave me a fresh start. Now I'm alert to God's ways; I don't take God for granted. Every day I review the ways He works; I try not to miss a trick. I feel put back together, and I'm watching my step.
God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to His eyes." -
Psalm 18:16-24 The Message