When my husband John was younger, he hated hardware stores. (Work with me here.) He hated all the hooks sticking out of the walls to hang things on. To him, it felt like those hooks were headed straight for his eyes. It was an odd weakness that followed him to adulthood.
Yet years later, as we lived in a remote village in Ethiopia where John was working on a water project, he began having trouble with his eyes–a malady seeming particularly unfortunate following a lifetime vulnerability.
Beginning with intense pain, his eye issues progressed to trouble with bright lights or when out in the wind.
It was an eye infection, we guessed. Yet he’d after applying tetracycline ointment and sulfur drops the nurses gave us, nothing seemed to help. Two weeks of profound pain stretched on.
We needed to go into Addis Ababa for supplies. John could hardly drive.
When we arrived, a fellow missionary told us about an eye doctor that worked in town, out of his home. At that time, medical care in Ethiopia was pretty sketch. But John was desperate.
On Monday morning, we bounced over horribly rutted tarmac to see the doctor. As we entered the compound, our hearts sank. This was no bustling hospital or pristine clinic.
His office was a small room with a cement floor and tin roof connected to his home. Goats roamed the compound. Chickens ran in and out of the office.
After examining John, the doctor said there was a piece of steel in John’s eye, probably from cutting rebar as he worked on the water project. (Doesn’t that make you cringe?)
It looked as if it had been there for about three weeks. There was already rust around the metal and he needed to have it removed right away.
After seeing the results of surgeries performed by doctors in Ethiopia, we were a “little” concerned.
Amputees roamed the streets…and John really didn’t want to lose an eye.
The doctor had John sit in a chair, putting drops in his eye to deaden it. Then he clamped his eyelid to keep it open: “Hold still.”
For a guy whose worst nightmare is something coming at his eyes? This was torture.
As the doctor took a little knife to cut out the steel and scrape off the rust he kept saying to me, “Here, come and look at this through the magnifier. Can you see the rust? Can you see the spot?”
I don’t think I saw it. But I said “yes, yes!” because poor John was sitting there in this horrible position, his eye clamped open and watering, nose running.
During the most crucial part of the removal as the doctor was scraping the rust, a goat bleated loudly outside and banged on the door to the office. I jumped as if I’d been stabbed–but by some miracle, John and the doctor held steady.
And to this day, my husband still has two eyes.
Your Unique Weakness
Ever had something that really bothered you?
For some people, that issue or that weakness may not be a big deal. But for you, it’s huge–like fingernails on a chalkboard or the particular whine of your fussy child.
God uniquely formed each one of us. And when he did–he wove in those little things that would make us cringe.
Why? He uses those things in our lives to show us how his grace that muscles us through; his love and presence that doesn’t depend on us:
But my grace is all you need, my power works best in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT)
I can’t tell you how many times God has kneaded that verse into my life.
I struggled for many years living in difficult situations in Africa. “Roughing it” is definitely an area of weakness for me! God always showed his power in my weakness as I found ways to survive. Ways to flourish.
The strength and power of my loyal God are enough for any situation. Including my worst fears–or my husband’s.
Every one of us carries unique fears–and by God’s same kindness, we may not always have to face them with an eyelid held open and a goat banging on the door.
But allow God to beautifully show you His amazing power as He works in and through your particular weakness, your vulnerability, what’s haunted you or defeated you.
When we’re at our weakest, God gets to show how powerful and kind He really is.
Gala Dallmann raised five children in three different African countries over 20 years (whew). Her husband John is a water engineer who brought clean water to many remote villages. In her words, their ministry consisted of “baby wipes and water pipes!” She now writes from Colorado Springs, where they serve with Engineering Ministries International.