You are reading this sentence right now because you have a perfectly clear layer of very specialized cells in your eye. These very specialized cells allow the light of the screen to be focused and passed into your eye. These cells become ultra-clear through a process of continual loss. They don’t start clear, but they eventually fill up entirely with natural ‘crystals’ formed by your body – perfectly clear, so you can see. It’s an astounding loss-filled process which leads to an astounding product – the clear lens of your eye. Similarly, caring for Johanna through her illness has been a loss-filled process. One that has changed my vocation, hopes, freedoms, and even the way I perceive the world around me.
Almost a year ago, I told the principal of the school I used to work at that I could no longer teach. My presence was required to care for Johanna around the clock, not just after I got home from work. Although it’s an honor to care for my wife, it’s not a role I would have naturally chosen. Teaching was a vocation I loved, and still love, and not one I wanted to give up. I loved interacting with students and relished the task of making learning engaging and challenging. I loved being able to invest and see tangible results. I had so many plans for my students and for my future as an educator. Johanna’s illness put everything on hold, and becoming a full-time caregiver took away not only what I loved doing, but my means of providing for us. It was a jarring loss and for many months after leaving, I was angry and sad about its absence.
Johanna’s sickness and my caregiving responsibilities have radically altered my hopes and plans. Before Johanna became seriously ill, I thought about a future with our own family, deeper involvement with church, and engagement with our wider community. Our difficult circumstances narrowed my vision to the day at hand and to what had to be done. I lost the comforts of choice. I didn’t remodel the house we’re living in because I wanted a fixer upper project. I didn’t leave my job for a better paying or more desirable occupation. Most of what I did, and still do each day, was defined by what I had to do. These choices were not made freely – I often had no other alternative.
For a while I didn’t process the pain of these losses. I busied myself with what needed to be done, not engaging the painful realities that were now pervasive in my life. Over time these painful losses overwhelmed me and I needed to address them. The Lord mercifully raised up people to come alongside me during this time, and I began to meet weekly with one of them. During these times, I would simply share what I was going through and would receive in return a listening ear, empathy, and wise counsel. Sharing the painful losses out loud and having them affirmed helped me feel the grief more clearly. Claiming Biblical truth helped me identify them as parts of a bigger picture. A picture of God’s greater plan for my own good and for my becoming more like Christ.
These losses are not accidental, and this is exactly where God wants us right now, being dependent. This must be part of the reason why Jesus says in Luke 18, ‘Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ God has providentially forced a situation on us that requires us to live like little children, utterly dependent on Himself and others for our needs.
The losses of caregiving have not been meaningless. They were initially confusing but ultimately served to make things more clear. They’ve taught me who I am not. I am not first a teacher. I am not the master of my future. I am not even the master of the next ten minutes. Instead, our losses have helped me see more of who God is. God has been, and will continue to be, a good provider. He seeks dependent hearts because He is able to provide everything we need. God is the master of our future and knows exactly what circumstances will produce in us a heart of humility and trust. Every loss has brought a clearer vision of who God is and who He wants me to become.