With the 2011 calendar year drawing to a close, a quick glance over the past 12 months reveals just one word for me:
For me personally, it has been one of the harder years that I can remember on nearly every front; spiritual, emotional and physical. While the family itself enjoyed quite a few highlights from the year, I cannot ignore the fact that my own personal story hasn’t been without some difficulties.
One of the lessons that I’ve learned from this year, and from my years of marriage to TJ is to put the appropriate weight on certain situations. I refuse to cite Romans as a quick-fix pick-me-up in times like these. I believe that would be placing the improper weight to how my year has been and absolutely trivializing what God is accomplishing through my story. Through a series of events that have happened over this past year, and from my wife’s perspective, we can see that God has been targeting three specific areas in my life that I drew my identity from: my ability to provide, my appearance and my name.
The first of these difficult moments happened in February. Somehow a liquid sac in my wrist got swollen and so inflamed that I couldn’t use my left hand to carry anything because of the pain. There was no trauma to the wrist to cause it. I just woke up one morning and suddenly realized that I couldn’t pick up my daughter. That killed me on the inside as I loved getting her from her crib in the mornings. I loved being the first person that she saw in the morning as she would great me with the most heart warming smile I have ever seen. Because I couldn’t use my left hand to even stabilize her, I didn’t want to risk dropping her and had TJ get her in the mornings.
I felt like a failure as a husband and a father as my ability to do things for my family decreased. I couldn’t get the car seat in and out of the car anymore. I couldn’t carry as many groceries or lift heavy objects around the home. I needed help when changing Eden’s diaper and with her bath.
I realize that from an outsider’s perspective, I shouldn’t be categorized as a failure. I wanted to be involved and I did as much as I possibly could, so who could find fault in me over something I had no control over? But this episode revealed something about my heart and my perception of being a good family man: I must do stuff. My identity as a good husband and father was tied to my ability to do things for my wife and daughter. Unless I provided in some way for my family, I was a failure.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Despite the wrist injury, I never fully understood what God was trying to teach me so He orchestrated one more event to get my attention. This time He removed something that I was proud of – our finances. At the most fundamental core, I believe a man should be a bread winner and provide a roof over his family’s head and food on the table. And to get my full attention, God orchestrated a serious chunk of time in the Fall where we did not draw an income.
I was gutted. Embarrassed. Ashamed. I was a failure. God – you have my attention.
Around the same time where we weren’t getting paid, there was a noticeable change in my appearance. Even though I’m a guy, I do care about my appearance and make an effort this this area. I at least make sure that my shoes and belt match and that they coordinate well with my shirt and jacket. I also have very unruly hair that’s been blessed with four cowlicks. Two in particular are very close together, giving me the Alfalfa look. So I make sure that I keep my hair at a reasonable length at all times to keep it from drawing too much attention.
Imagine the shock I experienced as I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata and my hair was falling out. It has been four months since TJ discovered a bald spot on my head, and the hair loss isn’t slowing down. In fact, this morning I found another spot on my head that’s beginning to thin too.
The hardest part about my splotchy hair loss is that I have no control over it whatsoever. I cannot hide behind my well coordinated clothes. I cannot cut my hair in a certain way to hide my bald spots. It is all exposed for the world to see. My scalp and shame is for everyone to see and there is no hiding it.
I am embarrassed. Ashamed. God – you have my attention… again.
As I wrestled with what God was doing to me and my different areas of life, it became evident that God was tearing down the name I had built up for myself. At different points this year, I was not a provider. Currently my appearance is less than ideal. The things that I thought were synonymous with my name were no longer true.
What is true of my name is rooted in its origin. My name, Jason, means “healer”. I remember looking it up a few years ago and being really excited about my name and how I would live out my name’s meaning. Somehow in the years that follow, I had gotten away from that and started tacking on other identities to my name that were not meant for me.
I believe through all of this, God is guiding me back to the origin of my name. I am a healer. But I have no idea how that is supposed to play out. In fact, it seems rather ironic that I’m a healer when my body is hit with random diseases that nobody can understand. But I do know that name name has more to do with the spiritual realm than the physical.
I know I’ve been afflicted with an assortment of ailments without a cure. That is the story that God is writing for me. Yet somewhere in that story, I am to play the role of a healer to those around me, especially my family.
I am Jason. It has been a hard year. I am a healer. God – you have my attention.