Full of Light

The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)

Devan knows what it’s like to be full of darkness and she knows what it’s like to truly “see”.  God opened her eyes in more ways than one.  Noticing the glory of God in a beautiful sky; spotting trees on a distant horizon; these may be things that some take for granted, but for Devan, they are both miracles.

Growing up, Devan knew that God was real, but she didn’t know He was meant to be her everything.  She didn’t have a clear understanding of who God even was.  With her dad and step-mom, she would go to the prestigious churches with bowling alleys that preached prosperity.  With her mom, she would go to little bitty Baptist churches that preached “Hell and damnation”.  She professed faith as a child.  She had gone through the big fancy baptism at the big fancy church, but it wasn’t a true conversion, she had no change of heart, and she was still blind to God‘s love . . . that is, until she saw His love played out for her in the life of a friend years later.

Devan was substitute teaching when she met Darla.  Darla was an aide who worked at the school.  Before Darla even knew Devan, she recognized that God had a friendship to cultivate between the two of them.

“The Lord told me to come say hi to you,” She told Devan out of the blue.

“Well that’s great for you,” were the sarcastic words that popped into Devan’s mind and may have even popped out of her mouth.  In fact, a lot of things popped out of Devan’s mouth back in those days that could have been considered offensive.  But it didn’t faze Darla.  It was pretty obvious that Devan wasn’t walking with the Lord, but Darla showed love to her anyway.  She invited Devan into her classroom during her breaks.  She showed Devan that she valued her.  It was the first time Devan had ever seen unconditional love from anyone other than her mom—so consistent and so faithful. It made a difference.  Pretty soon Devan found herself wanting to go to Darla’s classroom, even when she wasn’t invited, just to hang out and see what stories Darla would tell.

One day, when Devan was in her friend’s classroom, Darla exclaimed, “Look at that sky.  Isn’t that beautiful?  That’s the glory of the Lord!”

“I don’t understand that,” Devan expressed.  “I don’t understand how you can say that the sky is the glory of the Lord.”  Darla’s heavenly perception confused Devan who only knew how to look at life from a worldly viewpoint.

But Darla was fully aware of the power of God to enlighten Devan.  “If you will allow me, I will teach you,” she assured her.  As Darla daily revealed the truth to her, Devan’s eyes were finally opened, and God transformed her.

In keeping with her new life and her new perspective, Devan began going to church and participating in Bible studies.  But she hadn’t learned yet how to daily seek the Lord.  She hadn’t really taken ownership for herself.  She was always doing the dance or walking the walk somebody else was telling her to.  She didn’t experience genuine personal moments of faith and revelation from God until her marriage almost came to an end.

Devan left her husband Jared after 7 years of marriage, but her heart was breaking, knowing that this was not the kind of life God wanted for her.  She remembered how her father’s affair when she was a child had led to her parents’ divorce.  She didn’t want to walk that same path.  She didn’t want to repeat those same sins.  Baring her soul to the Lord more than ever before, she asked Him, “What do you want from me?  What do you require of me?  Surely this isn’t life.  Surely this isn’t what you’ve called me to.”

As she willingly became vulnerable in God’s hands; as she began to read the Bible all the way through, she started seeing the character of God.  For the first time, the words “God loves you” became more to her than just something people say.  Once she asked God to show His love to her, she recognized that He had truly loved her all along. When she received that love more deeply, she was able to love others more deeply as well. God healed her marriage and He brought life to her spirit.  He was turning her heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

But while events were unfolding in her life which awakened her spiritual eyes, Devan’s physical eyes were in need of healing as well, and she didn’t even know it yet.

Devan had never had perfect vision, even while wearing contacts or glasses.  She had been thinking for a long time of trying LASIK surgery to correct her eyesight.  So in the summer of 2020, she set up an appointment with a highly-recommended eye-surgeon in College Station.  The first step was for Devan to have a couple of tests to evaluate whether she was a good candidate for LASIK.  The second step was to have a consultation with the doctor.

She had never met Doctor Riggs before, but when he walked into the room there was something familiar about him.

“I know you,” she told him.

“I don’t think so,” Doctor Riggs replied.  But after talking a little longer they realized that Doctor Riggs’s wife Sarah had been in a Bible study with Devan a few years earlier.  The fellowship she had shared with Sarah gave Devan a feeling of trust toward the doctor, even though this was her first appointment with him.  It helped Devan have a sense of peace and safety.  That comfort was valuable to her in the next few moments as she received an unexpected diagnosis.

Dr. Riggs explained that Devan was not a good candidate for LASIK surgery because she had an eye disease called keratoconus.  The disorder results in progressive thinning near the center of the cornea causing it to bulge.  It produces blurry, distorted vision.  Thankfully, corneal cross-linking had recently been approved in the United States, a surgery that can halt the progression of keratoconus.  Prior to that it was only available in Europe.

After hearing the diagnosis, Devan wanted to know how long ago she had developed keratoconus.  According to Dr. Riggs, she had probably had it for eight to ten years already.  This explained symptoms Devan had been experiencing for a while like dry eyes and contact lenses falling out.  She hadn’t been able to see well, but no doctor had ever been able to figure out what was causing her vision problems until that day in Dr. Riggs’s office.

Rather than being upset about the diagnosis, though, Devan was inspired to praise God.  She believed it was a blessing from the Lord that He had not revealed the keratoconus to her until there was something tangible she could do about it that was readily within reach.  If she had found out about the disorder eight or ten years earlier when she had likely first developed it, it would have been on her mind constantly.  She would have had to go to the doctor every six months or so to check the progression of the keratoconus.  She might have felt anxious, wondering whether she would some day need a cornea transplant.  Maybe she would have even tried to convince her husband to allow her to fly to Europe to have cross-linking surgery, which would have placed a serious strain on their bank account and also on their marriage.  She would not have handled the news well had she received it a few years earlier.

God had prepared her for this day so that thankfulness rather than worry filled her heart.  It wasn’t as if she felt no concern, but realizing that events were unfolding according to God’s timing put Devan’s mind at ease.

She rallied some of her closest girlfriends to join her in prayer.  “Hey, I have this eye disease, and I’m really scared,” she confessed.  “I don’t know what to do, but I’m praying that God is going to heal me and that I either don’t have to have cross-linking surgery or that, if I do have it, it just goes swimmingly well.”

It would be several weeks before Devan would return to her doctor for follow-up tests to see whether the disease had advanced.  When Dr. Riggs walked into the exam room, Devan received news as surprising as the diagnosis itself.

Dr. Riggs glanced down at the test results.  Then he looked back up at Devan.  Taking them in his hand, he placed the papers on Devan’s lap.  “What have you done?” he inquired.  You have no keratoconus; nothing; not one sign of keratoconus!”  Devan was blown away; at least that was her initial reaction.  Then she thought, “Of course I don’t have keratoconus; we’ve been praying.  My God is that amazing!”  And even though she had not really been expecting such an amazing announcement, Devan had already felt at peace with whatever the tests would reveal.  However, there was a part of Devan that had reservations even as she was rejoicing.  “Maybe the test was wrong and I really do still have it,” she considered.

She felt like Gideon, the farmer-turned-warrior, whose story in the Bible is a journey from insecurity to victory.  After an angel announced that Gideon would defeat an enemy army, Gideon asked for a sign to confirm what the Lord had revealed.  The angel touched a rock with his staff and fire sprang up.  Then the angel vanished.

This experience was enough to inspire awe and obedience in Gideon, but he still craved another sign:

“look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor.  If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” (Judges 6:37)

God didn’t chastise Gideon for being slow to believe the angel’s message.  He granted Gideon the miraculous sign he had requested.  When Gideon woke up, the ground was dry, but the fleece was wet with dew.  But even these two signs were not enough for Gideon.

“‘Do not be angry with me,’” he said. “‘Let me make just one more request.  Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.’  That night God did so.  Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.” (Judges 6:39-40)

This was the last test. Gideon was finally convinced, and God indeed used him to defeat Israel’s oppressors.

Like Gideon, Devan felt that she needed one more test.  She needed God to strengthen her faith.  So in six weeks she went back to her doctor for another round of eye assessments.

“Ok, Lord, if I don’t have keratoconus, let it be zero again.  Let it have absolutely no resemblance of this disease,” she prayed.

Just as she had hoped, when Doctor Riggs came in the examination room, he declared, “Devan, you’re cured!  There is nothing here; nothing!”  Devan immediately praised the Lord.  But, in all honesty, she still had a little bit of doubt.  If she was to have LASIK surgery, she needed to be sure she was not putting herself at risk.

So Devan prayed once more, “Lord, please don’t be upset with me, but let me find favor, and show me one more time.  Show me one more test.  Let it come back clear, or let it be so apparent that I have keratoconus that there’s no doubt one way or the other.”

Six weeks later, in that same familiar exam room, Dr. Riggs reassured her again that Devan had no sign of keratoconus.  Everything was perfect.  “You can have LASIK; you are a good candidate,” he reiterated.  “However, in the next week or two we are going to have a new state-of-the-art technology that can test your eye in a completely different way,” he continued.  “We would like for you to go ahead and have this test, and this will show us without a shadow of a doubt if you have keratoconus.”

So Devan prayed and she waited.  After two weeks had passed, she returned for the fourth and final test.  When her doctor entered the room, Devan could see his cheeks rising up in a smile behind his mask.

“Your eyes are amazing!  They are so healthy,” he marveled.  “I would absolutely tell you, if you were my wife or my daughter, that you can have the surgery if you want to.  Obviously, there are risks, but as far as I’m concerned there are no risks, because your eyes are that healthy.”

“Ok, Lord, thank you for the dry fleece and the dry ground,” Devan prayed.  “Thank you for letting me ask You the hard questions and for showing up in a big way.”  There was now nothing holding Devan back.  She knew that she could have LASIK surgery without fear.  But despite the miracle they had both witnessed, Doctor Riggs wanted to make sure Devan did not have unrealistic expectations.

“I can’t give you 20/20 vision,” he explained.  “I think the best I might be able to do is 20/25, but you’re probably looking at 20/30.  The Lord gives you your eyesight, and this is the best he’s ever given you.  I think that’s all you’re ever going to get.”

Devan was too busy counting her blessings to be upset by his prognosis, though.  “It’s ok; it doesn’t really matter.  If you’re telling me the best I can see is the best I’ve ever been able to see, but I’m not going to have to wear contacts and glasses, and I don’t have keratoconus, this is great.  It’s fine.”

Her positive outlook was not what Dr. Riggs expected. However, it wasn’t the first time Devan’s attitude had taken him by surprise.  He had already noticed when he had first diagnosed her with keratoconus, her instinct had been to praise the Lord.  And it made an impression.  As it turned out, when Devan had LASIK surgery, she made an impression on several others, too, and she was completely unaware.

The day after the procedure, Devan returned to the office for a checkup.  Her doctor walked into the exam room and gave her a fist bump.  “You are legendary in our office now,” he said.

“What are you talking about?” Devan replied, curious, but a little embarrassed.

Dr. Riggs explained, “Devan, you smiled throughout the entire procedure.  I wish I would’ve video-taped you.  I would show every patient who walked in, ‘Look how easy this surgery is.  This girl smiled the entire time.’”

Dr. Riggs had seen patients react in a variety of ways.  Some would flinch or say “ouch” when he would cut around the eye. At times they even showed anger, fear or bitterness.  While Valium was administered to sedate them, they were not completely conscious of their own responses.  But when Devan received Valium and was undergoing surgery, she began to tell every single person that came into view, “Jesus loves you!”  She had no recollection of it, but she heard the report the next day.  One nurse who passed her in the hallway after her follow-up appointment even called out to her, “Hey, Jesus loves you!” in response to Devan’s blessing from the day before.

Although it made her laugh to think about her half-conscious evangelism, Devan was truly grateful that, in that moment when she had limited control over her actions, what came out of her mouth were words of grace.  She thought about the scripture that says, “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).  It was yet another reminder of how God had poured his joy into Devan’s heart.

And the Lord was gracious in yet another way to Devan, adding to her joy once again.  She had been content when Dr. Riggs had told her not to expect 20/20 vision after LASIK.  When they tested her eyesight that day after her surgery, sure enough, she did not have 20/20 vision.  Amazingly, her vision was 20/15, even better than 20/20!  That was “the icing on the cake”.  It was all so sweet.  God had done more than Devan had even asked or imagined. (Eph. 3:20)

That Sunday, just three days after her surgery, Devan gazed out of the window as she rode in the car with her husband on their way to church.  It was the same route they took each week, the same landscape they passed regularly, but this time it caught Devan’s attention.  When they came upon a hill where the distant horizon was visible, Devan began to cry.  “Jared, look at that hill over there, and look at all those beautiful trees!  Isn’t that amazing?” she exclaimed.

“Devan, those have always been there.  You could never see that?” Jared asked.

“No, I literally just thought it was green.  I just thought it was like a part of the horizon.  I thought it was grass.  I never could tell that there was a distinct hill, and I never could tell that there were trees on that hill, even with glasses and contacts in.”

At that moment Devan thought, “This is what Heaven’s like.  We think we know, but we’re only seeing glimpses of Heaven with 20/30 vision. We think we’re seeing the best, but God’s got 20/15.  He’s got something so much better, so much more joyful and peaceful and fun and abundant than we could even think of in glory.”

“For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God].”

(1 Corinthians 13:12 AMP)

Written by: Cynthia Butler (2021)

*Unless otherwise noted, all scriptures are taken from the New International Version.