I remember an explosion of light in my face. Then blackness. Then my friend slapping my head over and over as I rolled in the dirt. But still nothing but blackness. And screaming, and pain, and someone picking me up to carry me away, I knew not where.
Adjacent to our house was a field littered with clods of dirt and wheat stubble. While the grownups leaned against the wire fence, sipped iced tea, and swapped stories and laughs, another boy and I were all business. We had matches and explosives—two gifts from the great god Testosterone. Before long, booms and fiery shrills sang their song into the warm, summer night. Two young boys, down in the dirt, playing with fire, celebrating their independence.
But one firework was stubborn. A single fuse ran from one tiny pillar to the next, designed to set off a series of blazing, colorful shots. But the fuse kept burning out before it ran its course. So I got down on one knee to relight it. When it still wouldn’t cooperate, I decided to move to the other side of it and work it from that angle. When I did, for a split second, my face passed over it. And the powder ignited. And I was blind.
The fireball hit me directly between the eyes. My eyebrows and lashes were incinerated, and my hair was smoking—thus the cause of my friend’s frantic beating me about the head. Embedded in the skin of my nose and other parts of my face were specks of powder. Both my eyes were painted black with it. There was also the pain, which was worse than anything I’d ever experienced in my young life.
But if I was scared, it couldn’t have been anything compared to the terror my mom and dad felt as they carried me from one hospital to another that night, wondering if their son would ever see again.
Surgery to attempt to scrape away the powder from my eyes was scheduled for the next day. I lay in the hospital bed, a sightless, frightened thirteen year old boy. All night long I heard one voice: my mom’s, praying aloud for me.
Jesus got no rest that night. For the pleading, demanding petitions that exploded from the heart only a mother can have shook God awake and challenged him to a fight he couldn’t win. And one he didn’t want to.
On July 5, when the sun rose, I experienced one of the many undeserved miracles in my life. The powder that had covered my eyes the night before began to dissolve. The doctor was shocked. No surgery was necessary. The heavenly Physician did his job, and he did it well.
That was three decades ago. Today, if you look closely at my left eye, you’ll see one tiny speck of powder embedded in the whiteness. After all these years, it's still there. And I'm glad it is.
Here's why: when I look at the man in the mirror, I don’t often like what I see looking back at me. But when I see that speck in my eye, I’m reminded that despite my many faults, there are those who love me, have always loved me, and will never stop. There’s a woman who, for me, wrestled with Jesus all night long, and wouldn’t let him go, until he touched her son with his healing hand. And there's a God who heard that prayer, who loves me and you, and who looks at us as his children through eyes clear with grace and mercy.
To hear more about prayer, here's a short YouTube video in which I talk about how we learn the language of prayer.