Walking out of church toward God.

My Daughter's Eyes

About a month after my daughter was born my wife and I noticed that her eyes never stopped moving back and forth.  We hoped it was just a stage and that she would eventually be able to hold a steady gaze.   A month went by and it didn’t go away.  We visited specialists and ultimately came to the conclusion that our daughter has an eye condition known as “Nystagmus.”  


The condition means her eyes cannot fix themselves and constantly twitch even as she tries to focus on an object.  The bi-product of Nystagmus is varying degrees of vision impairment.  When we learned that our daughter would live with this the rest of her life she was still far too young for a doctor to determine the severity of the impairment.  

As parents it was really difficult to know that our daughter would have to struggle with this the rest of her life.  We worried about the social stigma of her eyes.  As she grew up other kids would certainly take notice of her condition.  We feared they would become a source of ridicule and shame.   More significantly we thought about all of the implications severe vision impairment can have on a life.  We wondered if our daughter would ever be able to drive a car.  Would she be able to play sports or do other activities kids enjoy?  Would she need special assistance in school?  My wife and I felt an overwhelming sadness for her.  Our hearts broke for her.
Our daughter is almost two now and you wouldn’t be surprised that our concerns are not shared by her.  She only knows what she has experienced in life thus far.    Nearly every single day for the past year someone, usually a stranger, has commented to my wife or I about her eyes.  The irony is not lost on us when they don’t comment on her Nystagmus, but on the beauty of her eyes.  
I don’t believe people are just being nice either.  First, the comments about her eyes are universal and happen all the time.  My wife and I smirk at each other every time we encounter someone who takes notice of her.  We know what comment is coming next.  Second, words can’t possibly do justice to the beauty and depth of their blueness.  They are like the sapphire blue of the deep ocean and at times they make her look like she is not from earth but from some other celestial place.  
At the surface  it seems almost cruel that my daughter’s unique beauty calls attention to her impediment. I have started to understand that its really not cruelty at all but a great reminder of the way God works.    For me my daughter’s eyes represent a physical manifestation of how God uses our pain and our struggles to make the world a more beautiful place.  When someone comments on the beauty of my daughter’s eyes I feel at times like God is “winking” at me and communicating what is ahead.  Its a small reminder that where I see pain, God sees the opportunity for redemption.  At the same time I look at her eyes and feel pangs of sadness, complete strangers are looking into their depths and seeing stunning beauty.  
I love my daughter regardless of her eyes, but I am also coming to see them as just another thing that makes her unique.   So I have come to love her eyes as part of who she is.   I wouldn’t have wished Nystagmus on her (I prayed she wouldn’t have it), but I don’t regret she has it now either.  Of course, I don’t want her to struggle but I want her to tell a beautiful story with her life and this is now part of that story.  
I think God looks at all of us the way I look at my daughter.   His heart breaks for our suffering.  He didn’t set things up this way.  But he also doesn’t see our pain as the end of the story.  Often it marks the beginning of a new story.   The story has a tragic element but its ultimately about beauty and redemption, just like my daughter’s eyes.   For most people its too easy to look at their lives and see only the struggle and feel disqualified because of it.  It would be so helpful to see that intertwined in that struggle is the potential for tremendous beauty.  
As I look into my daughter’s eyes I know she will struggle in life regardless of her nystagmus, and I am trying to accept the fact that as her Father I can’t protect her from life's struggles.  What I can do is provide her with the unyielding love that will help her to grow up with the emotional capacity to re-define her struggles in a way that makes her life more meaningful and this world a better place.   I will certainly fall short of perfect love for her, but I also know where I fail she has a heavenly father who won't. 
The central ingredient to turning tragedy into triumph is love.  The road to redemption in our personal struggles has to start with love.  Specifically, accepting that despite our failures we are loved beyond imagination.  Where our parents failed to provide us with the emotional capacity to reframe struggle, God’s love can fill in the gaps.  Its our choice to accept it or not.  When we do, our life reflects the Glory of that love even when life doesn’t go the way we want.