I never would have thought God would choose the book of Leviticus to speak to me. But that’s exactly what He did. I was sitting in Garth’s recliner, wearing a coat, slippers, holding hot tea, fire blazing, covered in a blanket, heat pumping. And yet I still couldn’t get warm. My eyes hurt, my hands and feet were cold, my chest felt tight, I was pretty miserable - Sjogren’s disease kicking in with all it's might. It’s a dumb sickness. Seriously. It hits out of nowhere, taking over my body for days at a time. Basically Sjogrens dries a person up, from the inside out. It causes extreme fatigue, headaches, a flushed feeling, cold hands/feet, pain that goes deep into my bones and extremely dry eyes. It’s a frustrating sickness because it’s hard to explain and unpredictable. It hurts to touch my bones and anytime the pressure is too hard, I bruise. I’ve learned that a few of it's triggers are stress and exposure to fluorescent light (I knew there was a reason I couldn’t stand this lighting and a reason I'm stocking up on good old fashioned incandescent light bulbs before they are all banned!), so I do my best to try to avoid them. But there’s this little thing called life. One filled with fluorescent lights and stress. I’m pretty sure it gets old for those around me because you really can’t do much for someone when "their body hurts and their arms feel too heavy to lift". So I try to suck it up, some days more successfully than others. But every time an episode hits, I can’t help but wonder why I keep wrestling with this. Especially when at one point I believed the Lord had healed me from it. That's a whole different story for another day but my lesson in it, that is important to this story, is that it was one of healing from a spiritual sickness, not a physical sickness. I learned that the Lord had to heal my spirit first. Anyway, on this particular day waking with Sjogrens, I was determined to spend time with God. I’d had a dream the night before that prompted this urgency, so no matter how I was feeling, I was a going to sit with the Lord. I have tendencies to go down rabbit trails, so I won’t go into details of the dream, but when I woke I felt like the Lord gave me this interpretation... “Give Me your best, even in the steepest of valleys.” So that’s where I was - sitting with God, in a valley, and really just wanting to be curled up in my bed. And then I began reading Leviticus 26:16...”then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache.” What. In. The. World. Did you catch that? Leviticus just listed my "issues"...God just listed my "issues"...wasting disease, fever that consumes the eyes and heart pain! And do you know what it says before that? “But if you will not listen to me and not do all these commandments...” I'm sorry, I promise I wasn’t going to bring a bunch of tears on you this time around at the risk of becoming the weeping blogger, but what I had just read made tears leak out of my eyes. Suddenly I’m thinking, Lord, is that me? Am I walking contrary to you? Am I not listening? I really, really don’t want to be doing that. When I was a little girl, about five years old, I needed glasses. So my mom took me to an eye doctor, got my prescription and I was fitted with a brand new pair of what I like to call goggles. I’m not really sure how long I had been wearing them at this point in the story, but one evening we were all sitting around the table being classic 2, 5 and 6 year olds...crossing our eyes at each other. That's normal,
right? My turn came and I crossed my eyes. I did a stellar job if I do say so myself. A few moments passed, my mom looked at me and I’m pretty sure said something along the lines of “Okay, that’s enough - uncross.” I tried. Really tried. Only I couldn’t. My eyes were stuck in a crossed position and there was no going back. So now you know, that kind of thing really does happen. Suddenly I was a 5 year old crossed-eyed kid. I wonder what my parents thought at that moment? I’m pretty sure I would have freaked out if it happened to one of my kids. I don’t honestly remember my reaction, but I do remember the long weeks of therapy that followed (physical therapy, not mental - although that might not have been a bad idea!), attempting to fix the problem. One week with a pirate patch on one eye, another week with the patch covering the other eye. Nothing worked, so surgery was the next best option. I don’t remember being scared, but I must have been because I needed my favorite doll Amy Jo to come into surgery with me. In fact, I requested that she also have surgery and she come out with patches too.
It turns out the eye doctor had given me the wrong prescription and it had caused my eye muscles to weaken and collapse inward. The surgery was to strengthen those muscles and pull my eyes “back into place.” And it was successful. Pretty soon I was back to my same 5 year old self, wearing a brand new pair of goggles. I've never really given much thought to that time in my life, mostly just when checking the box at the doctor's office when they ask if you've had any previous surgeries. But as the Lord has begun to work some things out in me, He often brings some of the moments like those back into my memory. And I’m beginning to understand why. What if we recognized everything as having purpose? That nothing happens by accident. That the Lord uses every. single. thing. in our life to get us to a point of readiness for what He has called us to. I wonder if maybe we would be stronger in our understanding of who we are. If maybe we would be more confident, bolder, more eager to keep walking into the unknown and the unsure. Into the hard and painful stuff. And I think that’s why He brought this story to mind the day I was sitting in the middle of yet another Sjogrens attack, wondering Lord, is that me? Am I walking contrary to you? Am I not listening?
The Lord saw to it my eyes were strengthened early because He knew what was coming. He had plans for my eyes...to see what He sees. And I truly believe they needed to be strengthened for this assignment the Lord has me on. And you know what's interesting...the thing the enemy is attacking? My eyes. He attacked them when I was a kid, God stepped in and used it. And he's attacking them as an adult, but God continually steps in and uses it. Because even in the midst of the steepest valley, I am to give Him my best. And my best means setting everything else aside and digging in - just me and Him. So maybe the Sjogren’s is lingering because God is still using it to work some things out in me. And yes, maybe the enemy is trying to use it too. But the cool thing is - every time I walk in sync with God, every time I give Him my best - He is glorified, I win, the enemy loses. Once we become aware of our gifts, we can begin to recognize how the enemy attacks. He’s not creative, he sees what God wants to use, and then attacks that very thing. Not creative, but certainly sneaky. I mean, really - I would’ve never thought to attack my eyes with dryness or my body with fatigue. The Lord gives the moisture, the enemy tries to take it away. The Lord gives me the strength, the enemy tries to steal it. And I say game on. Because "tries" is the key word. I’ve got eye drops, fish oil and pain medicine. But most of all I’ve got the best weapon ever - my relationship with my Lord. And He hears my cry. He sees my battle. “...you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as He hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.” Isaiah 30:19-20.
Just recently, as I was starting to read the book of Numbers, the Lord told me it was important and to really pay attention. And like hearing a message in Leviticus, I couldn't figure out why Numbers would have any real significant messages for me. That was until I read it with open eyes, paying attention to all the details. It was then that I realized why God wanted me to pay attention. The book of Numbers shows us how God reminded Israel that He doesn't tolerate rebellion, complaining, and disbelief without invoking consequences - a little bit like walking contrary. He taught His people how to walk with Him—not just with their feet through the wilderness but with their mouths in worship, hands in serving, and lives as witnesses to those around them. The people of Israel tested God’s patience, and in turn, He tested their endurance and faithfulness. The people failed many times, and yet God showed His own faithfulness by His constant presence leading the way: through a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And then I saw it all come together...it was the same testing of my endurance and faithfulness that He is doing at this very moment in my life. The same cloud He keeps showing me in real life, guiding me. The same presence leading the way for me each and every day. All while I'm sitting with Him in my valley.
“And on every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.” Isaiah 30:25 So guess what? I just may be in a valley now, but with the help of the Lord, the gift of my eyes strengthened and in tact, I’m headed up that mountain. And there’s going to be a lot of water when I get to the top of that mountain...because the Lord knows exactly what it is that I need. And the light...it's going to be a brilliant, natural light. Even better than incandescent.