Susie Hawkins: Suffering & endurance

Several years ago, our daughter and her husband traveled to California, leaving their 3-year-old Jackson and 18-month-old Julia in our care.

Like all grandparents, we were delighted to keep them. One of those mornings, my husband, O.S., took Jackson with him to his office. Jackson sat on his lap, looking over the desk, asking questions. As O.S. was opening his mail, Jackson grabbed a letter opener and somehow the end of it struck his eye. We soon assumed his eyeball had been scratched since he wouldn't open his eye and later in the day had a patch placed over it. Usually that type of injury heals quickly, but Jackson's eye wasn't any better the next morning.

My husband "happened" to see a friend at lunch, an ophthalmologist, and recounted the story. The doctor told us to go immediately to his office, which did not sound good. Two hours later we were on our way to emergency surgery at the children's hospital for what was a very serious injury. Just the tiniest bit closer to the pupil and Jackson would have been blinded.

Those hours are a blur to me now—Holly and David feverishly booking flights to get home as soon as possible, the doctor and nurse calling them to get permission to operate, finding someone to help with Julia, getting admitted to the hospital, all the while dealing with our growing fears. Thankfully the surgery was a success because his eye was saved, but his lens was completely destroyed.

Thus began a very long road of an almost 3-year-old wearing a contact lens (with all the issues that brings) as well as "patching" almost every day for the next eight or nine years. Patching is a technique used to prevent the brain from shutting down the injured eye by placing a patch over the good eye. The surgeons said once his eye was fully developed (around age 11 or 12), a permanent lens could be implanted. However, the patching was crucial to the whole process; his future vision literally depended upon it.

When a child is barely 3 and his problem can't be fully resolved until he is at least 11—well, that seemed like an eternity. There was no quick fix. Those were long days, weeks and years with many tears, frustrations and weariness on all sides.

Endurance was the name of the game. But time does pass and two summers ago, Jackson had the lens surgery. We still have no words to express our thankfulness to God that it was successful and today his vision is very good.

I experienced this trial through the lens of a wife and a mother. I had such angst in seeing my husband's grief over this accident. He was inconsolable. As a parent and especially as a grandparent, our primary instinct is to protect. How could such a freak accident occur to this child while sitting on his grandfather's lap? As much as others and I tried to comfort him and remind him of God's sovereignty, it was very difficult. O.S. is a strong believer, mature in his faith, to say the least. But this accident helped me realize more than ever how our brains may agree with truth, such as God's care and control, but our emotions—remorse, guilt, self-condemnation—can lag far behind, tormenting us. I couldn't fix that. The best I could do was sit by quietly, pray and entrust O.S. to God's loving care.

As a mom, I have marveled these past years at the resourcefulness and sheer fortitude of young mothers. Truly God equips mommies for their season. I remember one particular morning when Jackson was unusually agitated, wailing, fearful of patching and not being able to see out of his injured eye. I watched as Holly swept him up, soothed him, invented some little game and quietly sang to him walking through their house, pointing out favorite toys and familiar objects. He soon settled down and forgot about the patch. How many times did I see that happen? Too many to remember. God may not remove the trial, but somehow He provides the wisdom, energy and patience to cope with it every time.

The accident is part of our family story, although it is primarily Jackson's. He is growing into a fine young man and I listen carefully when he occasionally refers to the accident. How will this experience affect him in the future? All of us pray it is for God's glory and for our maturity, trusting that God will always provide all we need.

Certainly, "the testing of your faith produces endurance," as we read in Scripture. "But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:3-4).

Susie Hawkins has been active in ministry as a pastor's wife, teacher and volunteer and is the author of "From One Ministry Wife to Another." She and her husband, O.S. Hawkins, president of Guidestone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, have two children and six grandchildren. This column first appeared at Flourish, an online community for ministers' wives sponsored by the North American Mission Board.

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