‘I didn’t know I’d end up losing my sight…’
Stephen’s story | On the back of a tandem bicycle
“When I was about 12, a friend gave me a poem about riding a tandem bicycle. It was an allegory of life. What does it mean to have faith in God? Who is actually on the front seat, in control of the bike, steering? When I first read the poem, I didn’t know that eight years later, I’d lose my sight. I didn’t know that I’d end up riding on the back of a tandem bicycle, as a means to enjoy cycling. At the back, of course, there are no brakes, no steering, no gears. You can’t control the route. You can’t avoid the rough bits or the rocky bits. You have to trust the one in front.
Sometimes, I don’t like it. I’d prefer to be the one in front. But I know that we all have to learn that same absolute trust in God, who is on the front, steering. For me, that learning has been centred on losing my eyesight. I was diagnosed at around 20, or 21. I was partway through university. I swapped courses and I finished a different degree. It’s been a gradual decline in sight and I’m thankful for that. I’ve been able to make adjustments and draw on support along the way. I did a number of different jobs and then, after a few years, I was forced to choose a job that I could keep doing without any sight. I’m a counsellor now and it’s a good fit.
Some days are harder than others. A good day is when I feel that God has me where he wants me. It’s a day when I’m able to enjoy the beauty of his creation – to notice what is accessible to me, rather than feel the absence of my sight. I’ve been growing in my appreciation of the sounds and smells near where we live. This week, it’s been the sounds of the rain, and the birdsong, the smells of the flowers, and the sap in the trees. It’s true that God shows himself in the microscopic and the minuscule. A good day is also when I don’t hit my toes so many times.
People say that your hearing gets better when you lose your sight. I don’t think it gets better, but you can learn to notice it better. Mostly, I need to lean on God. He is sufficient. There are quite a few references to light and dark in the Bible, and to sight and blindness. But the one that’s most significant for me is in 2 Corinthians 4. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (v18)
I need to look at the resurrection and eternity – to look at what is now, and what is coming. I know I’ve been growing in my real, deep longing for the resurrection – for the renewal and regeneration of all creation. I also need to fix my gaze on God’s opinion of me – rather than on anyone else’s.
At one level, I don’t want to be defined by my lack of sight. My journey of learning to trust in God (on the back of the tandem bicycle), has involved this, as well as many other things. But we all face different things in which we need to trust in God. In my job, I meet so many people facing really big things. We can’t compare. Often it seems random, or it doesn’t make sense to us. The world is broken and we can’t see the full picture. But we have to learn to put our trust in Jesus and to fix our eyes on him. He’s the one on the front of the bike and he’s the one in control. He’s really skilful. He knows how to lead us perfectly. As it says in Hebrews 12:2, Jesus is the author and perfector of our faith. So for me, I have to learn to fix my eyes on him, and to keep pedalling…”
Stephen’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.