I Was Not Fully Healed, But I Was Made Whole

Up until about 6 years ago I would read the story of the 10 lepers and wonder how the leper who went back to show gratitude was any more blessed than the 9 who didn’t go back. I knew it was a story demonstrating the importance of gratitude, but they were all healed. Yet, somewhere at the back of my mind there was a wriggling feeling that there was something more, something bigger to be learned from this story.

Then in March or 2011 I was in a car accident. It wasn’t a terrible accident, but I did hit my head and shortly thereafter I started seeing stars and shimmering lights around my right eye. I had everything checked out and they couldn’t find anything wrong, but advised me to keep an eye on it. About 3 months later I noticed (as a teacher’s aid after summer break) that the writing on the whiteboard was no longer clear. I went to my eye doctor to have the power of my contact prescription increased. It was then that I found out I was losing the central vision in my right eye. A little in my left eye as well, but drastically in my right. I started searching out specialists. I was told by two different specialists in Ogden it was probably as a result of my car accident and that it was most likely permanent and I’d need to just get used to it. A very good friend of mine was appalled by that answer and demanded that I go to the Moran Institute at the University of Utah and get a second opinion. I am so grateful for her and her response to my disappointment!

Very quickly I was seen by 3 different specialists who took my problem very seriously. I spent days completing tests, having photos taken of my eyes, inside and out, and lots of medical tests too. I had a CT Scan, an MRI, a chest Xray, an ultrasound of my heart through my stomach and about 12 vials of blood drawb abd tested for anything and everything they could think of that might be causing my loss of vision. They didn’t know what it was, but they were determined to find out. They thought it might be autoimmune. They guaranteed me that it was not a result of the accident and that if was just coincidental that the symptoms started at the same time. In the end they could not pin it to any particular thing, but they did find that the blood vessels in my eye were leaking and it was causing major damage to my retinas. They decided to treat my symptoms since they couldn’t find a cause to treat instead. By that time most of the vision in my right eye had been affected (I was seeing 20/300 at that point, with my contacts in) and I was at about half vision in my left eye. Thanks to those doctors and the God inspired technology and medications that they have they were able to stabilize my vision and by some miracle the vision in my left eye has come back almost completely.

That first year and a half was probably my hardest year of life up to that point. I was scared. Really I was terrified! I didn’t know if what I had was life threatening or if I was just going to lose my vision completely. In either case, it was life altering for me. I am an artist, a baker, a reader, and an outdoor adventurist (ghost towning to be specific). Everything I love to do requires my vision. I’m sure no one is happy to lose their vision, but I was feeling especially devastated. Not only was I an emotional wreck with the worry of what might happen to me, but my every day routine was exhausting! I had no idea how much losing some of your vision would affect you. I had to exert so much energy straining to read with the kids I was helping in school, I found myself forgetting things my past peripheral vision would have picked up, therefore much of my day was spent retracing my steps. I lost my depth perception and would find myself tripping over things I didn’t realize were poking up a little or falling off little ledges I didn’t see were there. I was tired. I was sad. I was scared. Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally too. It was so hard!

Phew… that was a long story to prove my point. In my religion we believe in the power of healing blessings through the Priesthood. I had A LOT of blessings during that year. After about a year of working through things including going to a specialist in Oregon to get another opinion on the permanence of my condition I had gotten another blessing. After that blessing I had the strangest calm come over me. And in that calm I distinctly felt a lesson being taught to me. The anguish and uncertainty that had been so prevalent in my life for almost two years was gone. I felt peace. I could look back and see times of comfort, tender mercies of love, and so much I had gained… empathy for others, gratitude for the blessings in my life, an increased closeness to my family, and a better relationship with my God. I had received the miracle of one eye being healed and the other eye was being left with me the way it was, maybe as a reminder of those lessons. Maybe to keep me humble. Maybe so I would remember to testify of God’s mercy in the other things I had learned. But at that point, it didn’t matter. Even though I had not been physically healed in that eye, I had through God’s power, my faith, my positive attitude, my searching for lessons in the trial, and my patience over that year been made whole.

I now know for myself that the leper who came back was blessed far more, beyond what words can express, for having come back. He was made whole. The others were, like him, healed physically. But unlike the others, the anguish and grief of the previous years or pain, sickness, and banishment, the emotional aching and mental stress were wiped away when he was made whole.

Unanswered Prayers Are Proof that God loves Us

“Unanswered prayers” was not the theme I had planned for this week, but it was the theme that kept nagging at my mind and so I felt that it was what God wanted me to write about and think about. Maybe one of you knows why God pressed it so heavily on my mind.

I have had many prayers in my life go answered with silence from heaven. And at the time I felt ignored and perhaps even denied. I found a great article that I will post tomorrow that covers 5 reasons why this may be. I can relate my own experiences to each of them.

  1. Am I ready to act on the answer? God knows the intent of our hearts and there have been times that if the answer had been immediately given I would not have been prepared to do what was asked of me with the answer given.
  2. Have I done everything in my power? I can see now that some of my initial prayers were very lazy. I wanted answers or I wanted God to change something in my life, but without and effort on my part. Maybe in those times I wanted a genie more than a God that would have some expectations of me.
  3. Have I ignored the answer? Now this one is the painful one for me. There were times I prayed for things and was given an answer, but in my pride I rejected it because it was simply not the answer that I wanted. Then I just kept praying for a different one. It was only in eventual humility I was able to accept and appreciate the answer given.
  4. Are my desires righteous? Another one that is hard for us to swallow sometimes. There have absolutely been times that the thing I wanted most was not the thing God saw I needed. In looking back these are the prayers I am most grateful were not realized. I am so grateful God does see a bigger picture and does on occasion completely deny us our selfish or short-sighted requests.
  5. Is it the right time? Over the years I have learned very well how much my Heavenly Father loves me. I have also learned that what I perceived as a “NO” from Him was simply a “not yet”. He does want us to be happy. He does want to give us all we ask for in righteousness, but He also knows when there is more I need to learn and understand before an answer will be right in my life. And maybe sometimes it is not for my readiness that He waits. Sometimes there are other people that are not ready, those involved in the scenario that need more time. I try to remember when I feel these “not yet” answers how He has, in His perfect timing, woven answers to multiple pleas from multiple lives together into beautiful tapestries. I have seen this happen time and time again. I try to lean on these experiences with my faith is wavering.
  6. A final point that I got from listening to an amazing writer/speaker, Emily Belle Freeman, is that maybe I am holding God back. Maybe my lack of faith refuses Him permission to work in those areas of my life where He could really do the most good. Maybe I have a predetermined vision of how I want those problems to be solved. Maybe I don’t trust Him enough to turn over my control of those areas.

I recently finished listening to an audio book called The Priest by Francine Rivers. It is a historical fiction book about the Children of Israel from Aaron’s perspective and experiences. Once the Israelites were freed from Egypt they really had one desire… to enter their promised land. Yet, they were not spiritually prepared to do so. They did not trust God and complained against everything He asked of them. And so even though He answered so many of their daily requests they were denied the thing they wanted most. I found myself getting so irritated with these whiney people and their faithlessness for Moses’s sake, over and over. And yet every time I felt frustrated with them thoughts of my own faithlessness came bitterly to my mind and heart. How often do we acknowledge God and praise Him in the smoothness of our life only to turn on Him as soon as things get stormy? How often do we ignore the hundreds of tiny miracles in our lives because we are so focused on the one big one we yearn for and may not be ready for. I am guilty of this, oh so guilty, and it breaks my heart.

There is a verse in Helaman chapter 12 that I found especially poignant this week.

6 Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath acreated them, should brule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at cnaught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.

I can see so many times in my life that even though I in theory wanted God’s help, in my pridefulness I rejected it. I pushed Him away either because I thought I knew better, or because I wanted a different answer. And still when I turned back to Him, when I repented of my pride, when my heart was once again facing Him I have ALWAYS found Him waiting. His mercy is matchless and it humbles me.

One of my recent epiphanies on the topic of unanswered prayers comes from the account in Luke I posted earlier this week. As Christ suffered in Gethsemane, in a way completely incomprehensible to us for things that were 100% our fault, not His, in His agony, so great for even One who was part God, He cried out for relief. He asked for the cup to be taken from Him, if it were at all possible. How much it must have broken the Father’s heart to deny His beloved Son that request! He withheld His hand and allowed our Savior to complete the plan that was designed long before the world was created. For the love of each of us, He allowed His Son’s prayer to go unanswered. As I contemplate those circumstances I wonder how I can at any time look at the “no” or “not yet” answers to my own trivial requests and think that they are given as a result of God not loving me enough, as if THAT is in His nature at all. And one thing I have learned for myself is that, just as He did for His Son, when His answer is not what we want it to be He will, when we ask, strengthen us and give us a measure of His heavenly peace.

Though for different reasons at different times I have felt that He was not answering my prayers, as I look back on my life and trace God’s goodness in all that He has done for me and the many ways He has orchestrated miracles for me I find how unworthy I am and how very ungrateful. I waiver often, He never does. The times where I felt ignored or denied are seen much differently in hindsight because I can see how the answers did come, maybe not in the way that I wanted them then, but in the way that really was in my best interest. I can see how He has loved me. I can see how He has always been there. I can see how it was in the hardest times in my life, my times of greatest vulnerability that He and I have built the best and most treasured parts of my relationship with Him. Yet, even seeing all this and knowing all this, I know that I will come again to those chasms where, like the children of Israel, I will waiver in my trust again. Because, as Emily Freeman says in her book Even This, “One experience with God’s goodness does not tie you to Him forever.” I am so grateful that He does not give up on us in our unworthiness and our faithless times! I am grateful that He loves us enough to wait for us to understand that an unanswered prayer has nothing to do with His lack of love for us, and on the contrary has everything to do with the immeasurable amount of love He has for us and what He knows will be best in our lives to mold us and refine us into our very highest and best self.