Christian conferences and conventions like ACFW are filled with sweet fellowship moments and little capsules of heaven.
While the American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) conference is mainly a training and professional conference, we all had one thing in common – our faith in Christ. Being writers, who love to explore new ideas and relationships and use words, words and lots more words to do that, the fun comes in connecting with other believers and getting down to the nitty-gritty details of that shared love for Jesus.
Over the course of my first day at the ACFW conference, I struggled. I felt isolated from those awesome conversations I saw happening around me. With a visual impairment that limits my world to a six-foot bubble, it was difficult to maneuver through the crowds, see nametags, and connect with people. Several times, I found myself standing alone while others chatted with each other. Not one to interrupt conversations in process, I wandered away to sit alone, feeling a little sorry for myself.
In moments like that, I pray a prayer that in spite of God’s awesome history of answering in amazing ways, I forget His faithfulness and doubt replaces trust. “Lord bring to me the people You want me to see.’ Sometimes, many times, God has directed an editor to intersect my bubble or my ear catches a name of someone I want to meet. Other times, it is the unknown stranger who approaches me and I realize that this encounter is just as important as hob-nobbing with Ms. Famous Editor.
This particular morning, a woman sat down beside me. Soon she asked, “I see you holding your book close to your face. Would you be offended if I asked about your vision problem?”
“Not at all.” Some people would consider her question rude. I don’t. It was a relief that someone noticed. Besides, it just might lead to another God-moment.“I’m very free to talk about it.”
In a couple of brief sentences, I explained the root and extent of my visual loss. She, in turn, told me she had a close friend with a visual loss and her two sisters were Albinos, for whom visual limitations is a common side effect. Like many Albinos, the women had nystagmus just like I do, a condition where the eyes jitter back and forth. It really is a relief to me when someone already knows what nystagmus is; otherwise this rare disease is difficult to explain to a fully sighted person.
Then the deja’ vu moment happened. My new friend and I launched into a mutual encouragement session of how our faith strengthens us in spite of frustrating experiences with poor vision.
She told how she garnered encouragement from a line in an old hymn. “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the Light and the burdens of my heart rolled away.”
Light! Such precious light! How often I’ve struggled through a dimly lit room, then the lights come on or the curtains are opened. Immediate relief. Yes, oh yes! That’s what Jesus’ death on the cross did for me! Pot holes and dimly lit rocky paths liter every life, but God shows us how to get from here to there as brightly as light illuminating that obstructed trail.
Then she told me the story of how blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby found hope in the fact that her first visual image would be the face of Jesus at Heaven’s gates. I shared how that assurance has been such an blessing to me. One day, some day, my vision will be totally restored and I will see all of Heaven’s glories as my Lord intended human eyes to see.
Then I mentioned an observation a fellow Bible college student made years ago. “Jesus was visually impaired. In fact Jesus was handicapped in all ways. He voluntarily left the glories of heaven to stuff Himself into a limited human body. Compared to what He left behind, He had imperfect vision, limited hearing, and restricted energy.
Philippians 2:6,7 says,
“Though he (Jesus) was God, he did not think of equality with god as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being (NLT).
He willingly became handicapped for our sake. Because he’s been there, He knows what it is like.
My new friend was in tears. “Oh thank you,” she said, explaining that she suffered from multiple health problems. “I’m so glad you shared that with me.”
As if by mutual agreement, we lapsed into silence, worshipping in our quiet corner of the Hyatt Regency Hotel’s fourth floor the God who allows us to be what we are, who came to earth so He could identify with us, and who will restore us one day to all He intended us to be.
I wouldn’t trade that experience for chats with a hundred editors.