Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson
Blog, Life Issues

Dear Amy

Every Friday, a reminder comes up on my calendar—“Write Blog.” Lately, I have ignored this message, in large part because I am working on a third book, and it is exhausting what brain cells I have left. In my weaker moments, I also wonder about the use of time in writing blogs. Especially in our social media world. Seems like most are interested in things superficial. Pictures. Jokes. Or the latest rant.

But I made a commitment that this would be a place I would collaborate with life. I would share my reflections, mainly from books I read (which currently include Twilight of the Gods; Grandstanding; How to Lead; God Walk; and Strange Rites). Having pastored for 35 years, I am also committed to calling the church to be a prophetic voice through my words—though it seems hard to say anything without people politicizing it. Sadly, politics seems to have become our idol.

Today is different. I decided to write a blog—a different blog, one addressed to Amy.

Amy is the daughter of a dear friend, one I have known for over forty years. For his last two of his eighty-three years, Bob has fought cancer with courage and tenacity. In the end, a brain tumor took his life. Behind his heroics and faith, however, was an even greater hero—Amy. She attended to her father, caring for him, LOVING him, leaving her home for a season to live with him. She came to see that brokenness is an integral part of life.

Lots of people make the headlines, but I am convinced the people who deserve our reading are caregivers like Amy. Behind the scenes, cleaning up, washing, feeding, driving to endless doctor’s appointments, managing the medications. Listening. Staying up in the night. They are the ones who make a difference in this world—far more than most politicians and protestors. Caregivers seek to preserve rather than tear down, support rather than shame, and make our days easier—rather than more difficult.

After Bob’s death, Amy spent days sorting through things left behind. Talking with friends. Keeping everyone updated. Bob probably knew more people than just about anyone else I have known. A dentist, a sports historian, a man of deep faith and love for the Word. I know. For most of my ministry, he and wife Faith sat in the front pew with Bibles and pens in hand.

Amy wrote her father’s obituary. It was eloquent. It’s no wonder her husband Dave has such a profound love for Amy. I was privileged to marry them years ago. Faithfully, they have pressed on—two people who have deeply enjoyed life together.

Two days ago, Dave called to give me an update. Just days after Bob went to be with the Lord, Amy began to experience her own physical pain. She too was diagnosed with cancer. I need not tell you we have prayed and prayed over the weeks and months. But after a four-hour surgery a few nights ago, it is clear the cancer is inoperable.

In certain moments, God seems to give me just the right words. But at other times, like this one, I am left speechless. I want to believe God hears our prayers—and I do. But God’s ways can be so mysterious, so elusive. In this life “under the sun,” there are these instances when God reminds us we are not in control (as if the pandemic hasn’t reminded us of this already). I have my desires, but God has his ways—ways I cannot order.

I think of Leithart’s words from his book on Solomon: “We can no more bring the world under our complete control than we can guide the wind into a paddock for the night.” We pursue our dreams and make our plans, which often are like sandcastles before a wave. This may be too permanent a metaphor. As Leithart observes, our projects are more like cloud castles on a windy day.

What I do know for sure is that in this ephemeral world, God is in control. His ways are always good. Always wise. I have learned this. Believe this. And just finishing my reading of Job and his suffering and God’s answers, God reminds me again of this. As one writer put it, ”Suffering may come upon saints without any discernible relation to their piety, but since they live within a divinely designed universe incorporating order and freedom, this ambivalence is not eternal and the freedom of evil is bounded by the ultimate triumph of good (Rev 21-22). Hold on to this Amy.


  • Terry Cook
    7:06 PM, 4 September 2020

    John, so sorry to hear this! I know what Bob meant to you and now his daughter. The older I get the more I’ve come to realize that sadness indeed abounds but it is not the end of the story. None of us gets off planet earth alive so this is yet another reminder to LIVE–every day to the fullest–even on those no good, terrible, horrible, very bad days. I grieve with you my friend.

  • Eric
    8:40 PM, 4 September 2020

    Thx for highlighting caregivers. Their work is quietly heroic and yet no guarantee of peace. This is the very real complexity of our age. They need to be named.

    On a personal note, a week ago fly-fishing in Talkeetna I encountered a friend from Palmer reading and taking notes on your book. Of course I told Laura you were one of my favorite profs at Western, we travelled to Turkey together just last year, and of course, I was one of your favorite students. (Wink). Keep blogging and writing, we’re listening.

  • Michael Gill
    5:52 PM, 6 September 2020

    Thank you for your compassion and encourage to Amy and Dave. They need our prayers.

  • Bud
    5:22 PM, 7 September 2020

    I, too, knew Bob a long time, first in a professional way and later as a friend. As a friend, he was intensely interested in whatever interested you, especially if it was about Oregon State sports. May God bless Amy in a special way. Her qualities demonstrate those of Bob and Faith and the hand of God.

  • Gregory Smith
    12:24 PM, 30 October 2020

    Thank you for your commitment to your blogs… and your tender pastor’s heart. I can empathize at least a little, having recently lost a dear friend for 26 years of my ministry in Mexico… COVID-19 marches on. It is humbling and affirming to witness the grace of God sustaining the hearts of those left behind. Blessings…Greg

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