By Kim Longden
A few days ago, I was sitting in the optometrist’s office with nine-year-old Jonah listening to the hushed tones of the eye exam in progress: “What is the lowest line you can read? Does it look better through lens number one, or number two?” It was a quiet and routine dialogue, almost a murmur under the whirring of the air conditioning vents. My only role at that point was to be present, seated in the corner observing. I did not take this peaceful moment for granted. In the not-too-distant past, we would have been struggling big time to get through an appointment like this!
It all began several years ago when we realized that then four-year-old Jonah wasn’t seeing well. We made an appointment with the local eye doctor which turned into months of many visits with specialists throughout the state. Not knowing if he was just extremely nearsighted, or if something was wrong with his overall eye health was pretty stressful.
But what made things exponentially more difficult was trying to get an anxious four-year-old to sit still long enough for the examinations that needed to be done. The child who is screaming and thrashing loud enough all the other patients can hear through closed doors? That was him. The mother who everyone is looking at like she can’t control her kid? That was me. It was a lengthy process of trying one thing and then another before we started getting insight into what was going on with his vision.
Remembering those stressful, sweaty, tear-filled appointments got me thinking as I sat in my corner of the quiet exam room. When kids are young, their reality is the here and now; and when “here and now” is uncomfortable, they react.
Children don’t really have a concept of the big picture, so often our efforts at helping are perceived as confusing, disorienting, and even painful to them. My strong-willed son didn’t know that these distressing examinations with stinging eye drops and bright lights shining in his eyes were what he needed to be helped. In fact, Jonah had no idea at the age of four that he needed help. He had no clue he couldn’t see well, because he didn’t know any different! My little boy just knew the process was painful and uncomfortable and wanted it to end. Now!
I pondered what would’ve happened if we’d just stopped requiring Jonah to go to his eye appointments because they were difficult for him. This would have been a tempting thought back then; I dreaded those appointments, too. However, my view of the big picture and love for my son would not have allowed me to do that. No matter how much Jonah resisted, I knew we had to continue walking this path because it was best for him. He had to trust me as we continued each step forward, even though he didn’t understand why.
I started to think about how, just like little kids, I often don’t have a big picture perspective of pain and suffering in my life. I just know it hurts and I want it to end. Now! The moment hard times come, I want to run away, just like Jonah wanting to flee those exam rooms.
I’ve had many tearful moments begging God to take away every difficulty. Which makes me wonder: Maybe my Heavenly Father walks with me through struggles for my good, just like I walked with Jonah through his tough eye appointments…? Maybe I can fully trust God with the big picture I cannot see…?
Many times, all Jonah could do was take my hand and step through the doors of those doctors’ offices, not knowing what would happen next. Maybe Jesus invites me to do the same: to take a next step in trust with Him, even though I have no idea what awaits. Just like my son didn’t even know he couldn’t see, I am likely oblivious to some of the places I need the most help. When I can’t see the “why” of suffering in my limited perspective, I can cling to the truth that Jesus is good, and Jesus is for me.
As our peaceful eye appointment ended that day, we received a new referral to another specialist. There has not been a neat and tidy resolution to this journey. We still have unknowns regarding Jonah’s eye health. The only difference is that now there is more peace in the process, for Jonah and for me.
Jesus tells us that we will have difficulties in this world. He doesn’t promise trouble-free living; He promises peace that transcends human understanding. Peace in the process: the very priceless thing I was marveling over in the exam room. And so, Jonah and I take the next step forward into the unknown: his little hand in mine, and my hand in my Heavenly Father’s firm and trustworthy grasp.