Confessions of a Hypocrite

If hypocrites are people who tell others to do something they don’t do themselves, then I’m one.

For years I’ve been telling people to remember the “God-stories” in their lives, and tell them to their families. I even do workshops in churches teaching people how to write them up for their grandchildren. Just recently I was sitting with my wife, dredging up some reminiscences when up popped a memory of forty years ago, with details we had never told our youngest daughter, Cheryl, who was the main character of the story.

When Cheryl was only a few months old, we noticed one of her eyes was slightly turned in. “She has a lazy eye,” the optometrist said, “she’ll need glasses in a couple of years to correct the problem.” As we left for Brazil a few months later, we committed our whole family to God’s care, praying especially for Him to take care of her eyes.

Cheryl's Trachoma

During our first session among the Canelas, however, an epidemic of trachoma swept through the village. Hundreds of Canelas suffered the highly contagious eye infection. We prayed much and brought in cases of antibiotic eye salve and bandages to treat the villagers. Soon each one in our family was also infected, first in one eye, then in the other. After we took off little Cheryl’s bandages, we saw that our toddler’s lazy eye had turned in noticeably. As soon as we returned to the city we took her to an optometrist who prescribed glasses and an eye patch to wear over the good eye to force the lazy eye to work. Each year her glasses needed a new and stronger prescription.

Early in our fourth year of service in Brazil we had an upsetting visit from our field director. “You are due for furlough in December,” he said, “but I strongly suggest you start your furlough at the end of June at the end of the school year. It will be much easier on your children if they don’t have to change schools in the middle of the year. I don’t want you to wait until next June because you are so short of financial support you are borrowing money from other missionaries to buy groceries. You need to go home six months earlier to gather more financial partners”

Jo and I were disappointed since we were making good progress in learning the Canela language and culture. But we realized our financial situation was not improving, so we left that summer. There was, however, another reason for returning to Canada early that neither our director nor we knew about. As soon as we arrived we went for full medical checkups, including, of course, an eye exam for Cheryl.

The eye specialist gave a sobering report after examining Cheryl. “It’s a good thing you brought her in to see me today,” he said, “her prescription is totally wrong and in another month or two it would have been too late. Her lazy eye would have gone completely blind.”

He prescribed new glasses, and an eye patch and spoke of surgery if that didn’t work. The new prescription, however, was effective and year by year her eyes improved so much that by the time she entered college her eyes were near normal.

Jo and I told Cheryl about this incident the next time we saw her. “You mean if we hadn’t been so poor you would have stayed till the following year and I would have gone blind in one eye? I never knew that. Why didn’t you tell me earlier!”

Yes, why didn’t we? Very simple, we just didn’t sit down and deliberately think through our lives and look for God’s working. Hypocrite that I am, I did not do for Cheryl what I am always telling others to do.

In this story, what a convoluted way God worked! Instead of simply healing Cheryl’s eye, either instantly or gradually, in response to our prayers, he took her, and us, through years of concern, eye exams and treatments. Then He used another very negative situation, our low financial support, to move us back to Canada just in time to get the right treatment and prevent total blindness in that eye.

There’s got to be a lesson in there somewhere.