Seeing Beyond: Choosing to Look Past the Horizon
By Gail McWilliams
Seeing Beyond the Darkness
Late one March, I traveled with my fiancé to a pre-scheduled, yearly doctor’s appointment. For years, due to juvenile diabetes, I had been placed in an intensive eye research program. Each year I was monitored to determine if the disease had affected my sight in any way. Tragically, diabetes is known to be the greatest cause of blindness and visual impairment. These exams were very thorough, causing the days of testing to be grueling and extremely long. I hated them and feared that the doctors, if they looked too hard, would actually find something wrong. My companion for this visit, however, had helped me focus on the brightness of my future, and I didn’t dread the exam quite so much since I was with the man I loved. Looking back, I am not certain if my naiveté existed because the doctors had not informed me or because I was in denial over the potential complications of this disease. I was twenty-one years old and was consumed with my life’s plans and not interested in any interruption this disease could manufacture.
I had met Tony McWilliams one year earlier. My life’s dream for love and marriage were becoming reality. I had dreamed of marrying a man who would not only share my heart but also my passion for serving Christ. His quiet strength of character and beautiful blue eyes only enhanced the fulfillment of this dream that I had carried since a young girl. It seems strange now that I had ever doubted I would find such a man. Our future together not only connected two lives but also connected two destinies. I was filled with joy, anticipating the day that I would soon be his wife.
During the drive to the Midwest hospital, we had made lists of last minute details that needed our attention before the day of our wedding. It only seemed appropriate to be planning our wedding while we drove down the highway. For the past three years we had both traveled throughout the United States in our individual ministries. Tony’s focus was an evangelistic thrust to college campuses. Mine was to churches where I sang and spoke. Our courtship had been nine months of letter writing and phone calls. Our lives were going to merge two road ministries into one, and we could not wait. We were excited and very much in love.
The entire day at the medical center was consumed with various visual tests, pupil dilation, investigative pictures of my eyes, and lengthy monitoring. We sat among other research patients, and our care seemed impersonal as the medical research staff called each of our numbers.
Our daylight hours had slipped from us as we had been taken prisoner in a windowless clinic in the center of the hospital complex where we waited for the day’s results. At last, my name was called. Cheerfully, I quickly informed the nurse that she would have to change my last name on her records by the time I saw her next. I was about to be a bride.
Within minutes, my happiness would be challenged. The presiding doctor gravely warned that a slight change in my eyes had been detected. He explained some of what he saw in the fragile, compromised blood vessels behind my eyes. He resolutely stated, “You will inevitably see blindness in your lifetime.” No one knew exactly when. There would be no warning. The storm in my eyes was pending until some future time, which no one could predict.
Together, as we heard the news, we anchored ourselves to a faithful God who could do the impossible. Besides, we were focused only on our new love for one another.
The next hour became a blur as an ominous cloud began to form over us. I felt anxious as I tried to find a place to file away the doctor’s report. If only I could shred the memory of his prognosis.
We drove into the dark night with our hearts too numb to form words. I painfully reflected on the doctor’s observations as I wondered if the very man now driving me home would still want to marry me in three short weeks. We had heard the warnings from the skilled medical staff that told us of looming clouds of uncertainty. The sun was attempting to set without warning on the horizon of my bright future. I finally found the courage to softly say, “Tony, you don’t have to marry me. ”
We sat voiceless as we drove down the highway, held captive by our own thoughts. Our trip was half over when we exited onto a two-lane road, one hour from home. An eerie darkness broke our silence. “All of the lights are out and the power lines are snapped in two.” Everyone appeared to be missing. It was like a plague that blanketed our world. The darkness was blinding.
The scenes were like that of ghost towns nestled in a twilight zone, each scene identical as we passed through one small town after another. They were in stark contrast to the noisy, bustling city we had left earlier. There wasn’t a trace of life anywhere as our tires suddenly skated onto a thick, unexpected ice covering. Clueless as to any impending danger, we inched our way down the faintly traced path. Since our day had been spent in the corridors of a major hospital in the Midwest, we were oblivious to any weather warnings or threatening storms. After all, it was spring and winter’s grip had been loosened, marked by the changing pages of the calendar. Mother Nature, however, had surprised her residents with a wintry blast that would be unforgettable.
Creeping along, we marveled at the deep hole of darkness that was coupled with deafening silence. The ice continued to increase with each passing hour, and I wondered at what point we would find relief from the storm’s rage. We saw firsthand the devastating damage to our state. The Illinois fields were trapped in thick ice and the power lines lay frayed and lifeless beside the downed poles.
How had we missed the warning signs? The journey that should have taken only two hours had become a five-hour, tension-filled trip. There were no cell phones at the time so we could reach no one nor did anyone know if we were safe. My heart’s quest has always been to make a memory, but this was a bit off the charts.
We were only a few weeks from our spring wedding. Now, I watched my fiancé fight to hold the wheel as He steered his future bride to safety. This had been a day of constant heaviness and potential sadness. Now this. Could this darkness and severe storm be a forewarning of a life-storm that lay ahead for us? “Oh God, we are in desperate need of Your help. ”
Finally, we were close to home, anticipating the greetings of my anxious parents. I underestimated their trials during the storm, however. Due to the extensive power outage in the region, the sump pump in the basement wasn’t working and water had mercilessly flooded our finished basement. They had been bailing water all night.
My wedding dress had been hanging in the basement with the hem carefully spread out on a white sheet. It was pressed and awaiting the celebration of marriage to the man I loved. Now, the bottom of my dress was stained with dirty water bubbling up from the ground. This was more than I could bear when we finally arrived home.
With diligence, we worked as a team and the basement was saved. We moved my soiled dress to higher ground as my mother assured me we would find the perfect cleaners to make it like new once again. In my exhaustion, I tried to disengage from the last twenty-four hours that seemed like a nightmare.
The wedding that I had looked forward to all of my life now seemed threatened. It was not merely because of a stain on the bottom edges of my beautiful wedding dress, but the threatening, permanent medical stain that could make my fiancé change his mind about marrying me. I kept thinking that this was a terrible way to start our marriage. The man I loved had not yet committed to any vow of “for better or for worse, in sickness or in health”. I knew that he must be given the chance to be released from his commitment to marry me.
This excerpt is from Gail's book, Seeing Beyond. Used with permission.
Order your copy of Gail's book, Seeing Beyond.
Learn more at Gail's Web site, gailmcwilliams.com
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Gail McWilliams is an effective motivational and inspirational speaker in demand for both Christian and corporate events. Her personal story of how she lost her eyesight will amaze you as she challenges you to have a bigger vision. She is a successful author and recording artist as well as a vivacious and humorous speaker.
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