“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
–Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)
As far as I could tell, this was rock bottom. I stood in the basement of blind school, in the kitchen area, learning how to “feel” the difference between sugar packets and artificial sweetener. Learning how to differentiate between salt and pepper. And this final humiliation: learning how to pour hot liquids.
I was 37 years old, so you could safely assume I’d done some pouring in my previous life—the life of a fully-sighted person. Why, years ago… an elementary school teacher had even sent me to another part of the building to get him coffee. Surely this “pouring hot liquids” test would be child’s play! Yes, indeed, my years of pouring had prepared me well, and I felt confident going into the challenge.
The instructor handed me a white ceramic mug and cautiously asked me to pour her coffee. She was trying to assess my vision loss and said using my fingers placed alongside the cup to feel the rising level of heat was an option. But I didn’t need to do that. I could still see close enough to successfully pour the coffee…or so I thought.
“You didn’t leave room for cream,” she said, as I handed her a full cup of coffee.
Seriously? My expression said.
She wasn’t smiling—I could see that much.
She seemed troubled and looked down at her clipboard and checklist.
“I don’t know if I can mark you off on this.”
I could feel myself getting defensive.
“You didn’t tell me you wanted cream,” I said.
I had her there. She hadn’t told me, and now the instructor had to check me off. Reluctantly she did so, though I secretly suspect she ratted me out to her boss. “Beckie didn’t leave room for cream, you know.”
Suddenly in my mind I heard the dad from The Christmas Story ask, “What brought you to this looowwwwly state?”
In my case it wasn’t soap poisoning. It was a retina disease coupled with a lack of confidence. Confidence so low I stood in this sad facility relying on someone else to tell me whether or not I could pour coffee.
Understandably, adjusting to a disability can deflate your confidence, but this was a new low. But it was a good new low. Because as we all know, when you’re at the bottom, you start looking up.
The “pouring hot liquids” episode proved pivotal in that it drove me out of the blind school and home to my knees, praying for God to give me a “new direction.” And He surely did—in the way of a surprise pregnancy at age 38. Not the “new direction” I’d anticipated, but God often answers our prayers in surprising ways.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 describes exactly where the problem of a divided heart had gotten me. Up to this point, I was a “cultural Christian” not a “committed Christian.” I said I believed in God and went to church, but I did not fully commit my life to Him. I relied on my own wisdom when it came to daily decisions, instead of seeking God with all my heart.
But I found that when I prayed in desperation He listened, and I found Him when I sought Him with all my heart (and not half).
This is a common problem among Christians, I believe. I recently heard David Jeremiah of Turning Point say that we all have as much of God as we want. It’s like, “OK, God. This far, and no further!” Fear holds us back. We’re thinking, If I give God the reins, where will this end up? God thinks big, and that’s scary.
A curious thing happens though when we hit the bottom, as I did in blind school. We realize our ways aren’t working, and it might be nice to get in touch with the One who is really in charge. Because even though He’s the God of the universe and all powerful, He still cares about every detail of our lives. So we can invite Him in and watch what happens.
At that point, life becomes an adventure. With God in charge and leading you down surprising paths, things get interesting and so much more rewarding.
I’m sure many of my readers have experienced a similar story with God. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
Lord, forgive us for the times we’ve relied on our own judgments instead of seeking You with our whole hearts. Help us to settle the trust issue in our hearts once and for all. And thank You in advance for all the wonderful plans You are unfolding in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
* This blog is Part 2 in a series of Lessons from Blind School. For Part 1, see the July 2014 blog entitled “Giving Grief Space.”