I have an exam tomorrow. I’ve taken this exam over and over, since I was five years old. The test administrators have peered at me from their squeaky rolling stools, and their faces change, but the questions are always the same, the material never alters. . .
and yet this is a test I feel I always fail.
Tomorrow, long overdue, I go for my eye exam.
The condition that rendered me legally blind is ocular albinism. Before I carried my own name I carried it, twisted and broken in my optic nerve even in the sightless semidarkness of the womb.
The sort I have is a double-recessive trait. There is nothing of blame or censure that my parents both carried this gene, unknowing. And thus I have borne two eagle-eyed sons. For this I am grateful.
Most of the time I am entirely rational about my condition. I hold my books and needlework close to my bifocaled face. I enlarge font sizes and bless the late Steve Jobs for the 27 inch screen of this imac. On a deeper spiritual level I have come to even feel gratitude in how my visual limitations have shaped our family life, landing us in a home-centric, wide-margin existence. I experience wonder and worship when I cannot account for the images my camera and I produce.
But the moments I spend in that exam chair, when the lights are dimmed and the spotlight shines on that chart I’ve struggled to read since I learned the alphabet itself, these ordinary truths of our life, the reassurances of both my own mind and my loving, servant-hearted husband, fall away. The despair of never having accurate answers to what lies in the hazy distance, and the panic as I try to detect acuity between choices of new lenses make me again that bewildered kindergarten girl, a thousand stories in her head but unable to recognize her teacher’s face across the room.
In those moments I am flooded with all the images I’ll never see clearly, the soccer practices and piano lessons I’m never going to drive our sons to, the Saturdays consumed by errands and what will be my lifelong dependence on others. I imagine resentment my beloveds do not feel, myself a burden hung heavy on their freer lives.
But in the morning, in the creak of the vinyl chair and all my guesses and wrong answers, I’m going to try to remember that this is always the lie– that our particular brand of brokenness makes us unlovable. That without our defects and flaws we would somehow be more worthy.
I can’t see those little letters, all the way across the room. But I can see John’s smile over our morning coffee cups, Sam’s art and Joshua’s wide, earnest eyes. I can see the mist fly up at the base of the waterfall, and the velvet of moss carpeting a fallen tree. I can see the path of my life beyond that dim chair and a slip of paper with a set of numbers. Those aren’t me. But the wide world the Maker has given and the love lavished on me help me remember who and Whose I am.
And those are the notes I need to be studying, to prepare for my test tomorrow.