Three Degrees from Normal
When Angelia was a little girl they knew something was wrong with her left eye. Like my daughter, she became a pirate child when she was at home. Unlike my Bonnie, whose weak eye was strengthened by this patching exercise, the strategy didn’t work for Angelia. She can see shapes and colors but her true vision comes only from her right eye; her left is legally blind.
Having single vision hasn’t been a problem for Angelia. Since she never learned to focus with two eyes she hasn’t really experienced a vision loss; she just learned to get by with what she has. And besides not having good left side peripheral vision the only other time she notices the lack of two-eyed vision is when she is invited to a 3D movie.
But Angelia’s eyes have presented another form of pain for her – rejection.
Shortly after high school her left eye went on a journey of its own, lazily drifting off on its own course. Since Angelia wasn’t seeing through that eye it didn’t affect her vision, it was mostly noticeable to others who were looking at her. Instead of turning a blind eye to Angelia’s differences people began to stare and kids began to ask questions. While most people weren’t intentionally rude about her now noticeable amblyopia (a visual disorder in which the brain partially or wholly ignores input from one eye), it still drove home the message to Angelia that she was different. It became hard for her to run into people who knew her before the drift. She began to avoid and hide.
When you realize you are different you can start to question your worth. Angelia already had a mess of judgments she was dealing with coming from a broken home, a wedding that was hurried along by a pregnancy, and several other relational catastrophes. If our eyes are the windows to our souls, Angelia saw hers through her left, which meant that inside she was blurry at best, unlovable at worst.
Although her vision couldn’t be corrected, the direction of the eye could be addressed by surgery. But when your value as a person is at question it seems a waste to spend money to fix a cosmetic issue. Angelia dealt with guilt – feeling bad that she couldn’t just go through life with the hand she was dealt, wondering if her ailment was some message from God that she needed to bear, and sometimes she would compare herself with someone with a worse condition and decide that her condition wasn’t really bad enough to have fixed. And with each judgment her soul darkened a little more.
Not everyone saw Angelia’s heart the same way she did. Upon some encouragement from her friends she attended a seminar where she learned to confront this negativity and instead begin to truly see herself as the precious girl God created her to be. She began to replace the worthless messages in her head with a new word – priceless.
Priceless is an amazing term. We put value statements on many things and many people. Being priceless means that your status can’t be measured in terms of someone else’s value systems. It means that you can’t be bought, sold, devalued, or moved to the discount rack. Priceless means seeing yourself as a treasure even when the sticky from the old price tags hasn’t all been removed.
As her heart began to heal Angelia realized she was now in a different place with her left eye. She knew that if it was one of her daughters who had a lazy eye she would do whatever she could to help them. Seeing herself as a priceless daughter of God she decided to investigate the corrective operations to find out what they would cost. Amazingly her husband’s insurance would cover both of her needed surgeries; there would be no out-of-pocket expenses. No pricetag? Priceless.
The surgeon told Angelia that their goal with the placement of the left eye was within three degrees of normal. If you stand in front of Angelia today, remembering how her eyes used to look, you would be amazed at how her eyes line up. If you are meeting her for the first time you wouldn’t notice that her left eye is just there for looks, not looking.
If we were just judging on cosmetic adjustments this story ends well, but since this is really a journey of Angelia’s soul, we aren’t quite home yet.
While the judgments from others coming from a noticeable, external scar are no longer being spoken the window to her soul still occasionally need some of that glass cleaner. Angelia made this striking observation when sharing her story with me, “Fixing the external will not heal the soul.”
No. It never does.
Liposuction and dieting won’t heal the hearts of those whom we have labeled fat.
Breast enlargements won’t make a woman any more of a woman.
Tanning beds don’t really make you more attractive. Ever. (Watch an episode of The Jersey Shore if you disagree.)
Soul surgery is much more critical for our health than the cosmetic operations. Angelia is thrilled with the straightness of both of her eyes but she continues along her path of healing by digging after the painful roots in her life and purposing not to be stuck in worthlessness. She is creating a community of friends and family around her that is supportive of her health and tells her how much value she is to them. She sees herself walking next to Jesus, building an honest and loving relationship along The Way.
And the blind worthlessness is giving way to pricelessness, one blink at a time.
Next time you see her, look through these two windows into her beautiful soul.