“Rose-Colored” Pupils

At 3:47 a.m. on Thursday September 7th, I rolled over and woke up. I’d had too much water before going to bed, and my renal system had finished its civic duty. As I stumbled groggily to the restroom, I noticed an unfortunate sensation in my eye. Begrudgingly, I turned on the bathroom light and looked in the mirror. Closed lid, crusty substance, green goo and an overall nasty appearance. Just as I’d suspected: Pink eye.

I’d gotten pink eye a couple other times before, always in my pesky contact-lensed left eye. The first time I remember most vividly. It was early in the morning at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. I’d arrived about 45 minutes before first hour (which never happened, by the way. This may have been the only time. Seriously). My friends were sitting at one of the group study tables in the library, and I joined them. I commented about my allergies acting up at which point my dear, sweet friend Rebecca looked at me and said, “You have pink eye.” She was absolutely right. (And now she’s in her second year of medical school. Get it, girl!) I went to the nurse who promptly sent me home with instructions to see a doctor immediately—and not touch anything.  What a way to start high school.

And what better way to start graduate school than the same way, with an unexpected case of pink eye. #irony. Having diagnosed myself, I made an appointment that morning to see a doctor at Student Health Services before my 2:30 class. And so my ill-fated, patience-testing, 48-hour adventure began.

I arrived on campus 30 minutes prior to my 11:30 appointment and searched for a parking spot in Peavine deck, where my overpriced parking pass was programmed to work. Though the pass worked like a charm, the parking lot didn’t. I drove through the entire 2-building, 7-level complex twice. Nothing. Not a single parking spot. Frustrated, I joined a line of four other cars leaving the lot in an annoyed hurry. With only five minutes until my appointment, I drove back to the Student Health clinic building and pulled into their lot. Cringing, I took a ticket; anything longer than 30 minutes would cost me $4, and over an hour $5. I later called the Parking Services office to see if what I was supposed to do if Peavine was full. Their response: It wasn’t actually full. If it had been full, someone would have been stationed there to direct me to another lot. Circular reasoning? I think yes. While the lady was kind, she told me that she couldn’t’ reimburse my parking fee. Soooooo frustrating, especially considering the arm and leg I’d paid for my pass in the first place. Just my luck.

After a 15-minute wait, I was finally admitted to the clinic. And after another 20-minute wait, I finally saw the doctor. Her conclusion was just as I’d (and Rebecca would have) suspected: Pink eye. Woo hoo. And then, just for the heck of it, she decided to look more closely at my cornea. At which point she found a corneal abrasion. Rats. Her solution? Refer me to a specialist and make me an appointment for the next day. The saga continues…

Oh, and since she found the corneal abrasion, she opted not to give me eye drops to get rid of my pink eye. Yay for still being contagious. And the whole thing took at hour and 10 minutes. Which meant that I had to pay another dollar, bringing my unnecessary parking tab total to $5. Sweet.

The next day, my appointment was set for 2:40 p.m. I had a meeting with my advisor at noon, so I waited on campus until heading over at 2 or so. Emory’s campus is quite large, so I knew it would take me awhile to get there; thus, I left with plenty of time to spare.

And it would have been plenty of time—if I hadn’t gone to the wrong building…

When the doctor made the appointment, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the details. So while I picked up on “2:40,” “Dr. Shah” and “3rd floor,” I failed to catch the most important detail: Building B. As a result, I hiked all the way across campus to the Student Health building (a 30 minute walk) only to discover that I needed to be at the University Hospital. Which, of course, was a 10+ minute walk in the direction I’d originally come from. Go figure.

Finally, after much sweating and speed walking, I made it to the ophthalmologist’s office. I checked in and waited my turn. And finally, after an hour and a half, a visit from a nurse technician, and a check-up from resident doctor, I saw Dr. Shah. After all that, she said I might have pink eye. But if I did, it was probably the viral kind, which means they couldn’t treat it, that I was still very contagious and it would likely spread to my right eye before running its course. Awesome. And I had “corneal roughness,” or a bunch of little scratches on my cornea. Even more awesome.

So at 4:25, I left Dr. Shah’s office to get my prescription filled at the pharmacy in Building A. 40 minutes later, I had my steroid eye drops and was finally ready to go.

And that is my epically long story of my most recent experience with pink eye.

Why am I telling you this? Great question. Because throughout that 48-hour adventure, I had many moments of frustration. Why did I have to pay an extra $5? Why didn’t the first doctor just give me the eye drops and let me go? Why did I have to walk to the wrong building? Why was everything so much more complicated, time-consuming and generally irritating than it needed to be?

As I reflected on these questions, I came face to face with an unfortunate truth: I am a sinner. No, it’s not a sin to be frustrated, life is certainly not perfect. God certainly doesn’t want us to pretend to be happy and act like everything is okay when it’s not. Yes, problems are real (although mine were/are “first world problems”), but as believers, we’re called to rise above our circumstances. Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” But how do we actually accomplish that?

As I was pondering this question (and feeling rather convicted), 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 came to mind: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Rejoice always. Be joyful and recognize the good in every situation. And praise God for it.

Pray continually. Talk to God about your hopes, dreams, thoughts, fears, frustrations, annoyances, cases of pink eye… everything.

And last, but not least, give thanks in all circumstances.

For me, this last command may be the most difficult, but it also makes the greatest impact. You see, when we’re giving thanks, our focus automatically shifts from the negative to the positive. We’re no longer dragged down by what’s wrong because we are too busy being grateful for everything that is right. No, that doesn’t eliminate the frustration, but it changes our perspective. We can see our situation not as an obstacle, but rather as an opportunity to live out our faith and become more like Jesus. And most importantly, it takes our attention off the problem and puts it back on the Provider, where it ultimately belongs.

I’m by no means perfect at this. I do my fair share of complaining and arguing, and those two days were an unpleasant reminder of that. But fortunately, I serve a God whose grace is big enough to cover my shortcomings and who has solved all my problems in advance. And if my human weakness reminds me of my need for the cross, then I can be grateful even for that.

At least, that’s the way I see it… pink eye and all. 🙂

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