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On Losing the Ability to Type (and The Ol’ Ball and Chain)

I’m doing things a little bit differently today. For now at least, I’ve mostly lost the ability to type, so am going to try my hand at a little bit of video. If you want, you can click play to learn more.


We’ve got lights. We’ve got a camera. We’ve got a microphone. Let’s try this thing.

Hello everybody, Tim Challies here. You might have noticed there’s something different about the blog today. The more astute observers among you may have noticed that instead of the usual words today I am bringing you a video. That’s something a little bit different. I’ve been blogging for a long, long time now, many years of daily blogging. And I think this is the first time I’ve ever shown a video instead of typing out words. And there’s a good reason for you. I’m going to explain why I’m doing this and then I’ve got something I’d like to say for today.

Why am I doing a video? It’s because over the last little while, the last few months really, I’ve come down with something called cubital tunnel syndrome. You’ve probably heard of carpal tunnel syndrome that affects this part of the hand. Cubital tunnel syndrome affects this part of the hand down to the forearm and into the elbow. It’s caused, I believe, from a combination of factors, mostly typing, but also the way I sleep and other things. It’s been very, very painful, and just recently, over the last ten days, it’s gotten really bad to the point where I literally can’t type right now. It just causes too much pain to be siting in this position and to type.

And so if you’ve seen something on the site, especially the A La Carte posts over the last few days, I’ve only been able to do that because Aileen has sat with me, and I’ve told her what to type, and she’s actually typed it out. She’s learned how to be put those together. She’s been very good to me, very kind to me in helping me do that. And of course, it’s been her joy to do it.

And so for the next little while I need to take a break from typing as much as possible. I’m learning to use dictation software where I speak to the computer and it types for me. I’m even trying to do some handwriting and have someone transcribe that for me. But in the meantime I thought, “Necessity is the mother of invention—why don’t we try shooting some videos?” We’ll see if for a few days we change from a blog to a vlog. From a writing blog to a video vlog. Just see how it goes. At least we’re going to try it. I hope you find it acceptable. I hope you find it helpful in its own way.

So what I want to talk about today actually relates to all of this in an interesting way. I have a camera. I do a lot of travel especially for this church history project I’m doing. I’ve been travelling around the world wanting to take lots of photos, so I’ve got a reasonable camera. What I didn’t have in order to shoot video is lighting and a decent microphone and so I went off to my local camera store, and I love this store. There are very helpful people there, they’ve helped me with a lot of different things over the years. I went into this store, and I followed my usual route which means I go right to the Canon lens section, and I look longingly at all those awesome lenses, especially that Canon 24-70 L Series Lens—you know the one! I look at it longingly, and I realize I’m never going to be able to afford that. Then I go to the used lens section, and I look at it there and still think, “I still can’t afford that lens. That’s a crazy amount of money for a lens.” So I look at those lenses and then I usually go to do what I actually need to do that day.

Well, as I was finishing up my browsing there a young man came up to me who works at the store and just asks, “How can I help? What can I do for you?” Very helpful young guy. He helped me understand lighting and how to set up lighting so it wouldn’t leave dark shadows all over my face, showed me how to position a little microphone so that we could get some reasonable quality audio, and all that. Very helpful young man. This took a long time. He had to explain things to me and then he had to track them down in the warehouse in the back of the store. And so I was there for quite a long time.

Finally I get around to the paying part of the time there, and as I’m paying my phone rings, and I answer it, and it’s Aileen, and she’s just saying, “Just checking up on you. You’ve been gone for a long time. Wanted to make sure everything’s okay. You’ve been a couple hours in that store.”

“Everything’s great. It’s just taking us a long time to put the order together. No problem.” She hangs up.

And it was at this point that the young man looked at me and said something like, “Ah, the ol’ ball and chain holding you down, hey?”

And I thought, “I can’t just leave that there.” So I, in that moment, just talked to him a little bit, and explained why Aileen is not a ball and chain to me and why I don’t sanction that kind of language used in relation to my wife. But I want to cover it again today because I want to weigh thinking about it and thinking about how guys do tend at times to speak about their wives that way. There’s kind of this guy culture where you regard your wife as somebody who’s holding you back as a ball and chain, who’s dragging you back from maybe the good things you want to do in life—the things you would otherwise do in life.

So let me talk about this. And I’m directing it, I suppose, at everybody but especially to the young man in that store. Again, thank you for your help. You asked for my Youtube channel so hopefully you’ll see this. I want to tell you why Aileen is not a ball and chain and why I would never ever speak of her or women in that way.

So let me rewind a little bit. Twelfth grade. I’m a shy, quiet, introverted guy starting at a new school. I had been in another school, had to transfer in twelfth grade in order to work out my courses. Walk into my first class of the day, I believe it was the first class ever in this school. And I sit down in a chair, and I hear my name: “Hey, is your name Tim?” I turn around and there’s this pretty brown-haired girl sitting behind me. And she says, “Is your name Tim?”

I say, “Yeah.”

She goes, “Are you friends with Mark?”

And I said, “Yeah.”

And she looks at me dead in the eye, and she says, “If you ever tell anybody what you saw I will kill you. I will absolutely kill you.”

And I thought, “Man, this girl’s got some spark. I like this girl!”

I guess I should explain it. Turns out, she lived really close to a friend of mine. I had been over at his house before summer ended and school started again, and she had been out in the neighborhood being a kid and playing with a kid and had been caught being a good, big kid.

Anyways, I promised I would never tell anybody. She has since released me from that obligation. And that was the start of our relationship. All through that first semester we enjoyed one another. She helped me feel safe in that school. She was a friend for me at the school. We sometimes studied together, and so on.

Second semester comes along. We’re no longer in a class together so we start to drift apart a little bit. And then at the end of the school year I go off to college. At that time Ontario had thirteen grades so she stuck around in grade thirteen for a year. So I don’t see her for about a year.

Then one day my phone rings. It’s her, and she’s saying, “I’m going to the dance at school. I was wondering if you’d like to be my date.”

I said, “No way. I’m not going to a dance. I wouldn’t know how to dance.” So now I turned her down.

She called me back a little while later and said, “I’m going to a murder mystery party. Would you like to come and go to the party with me?”

I said, “Nope. Not gonna do that either. Tell you what, why don’t we just get together?” I’ll kind of just, you know, let you down slowly.

We got together. I still remember walking. We decided we would meet halfway. I still remember walking toward her, seeing her come toward me, and that was it. Game over. We started dating. We got married when we were twenty-one years old, and our next anniversary will be our twentieth. So we’ve been together quite a long time now.

Aileen is the love of my life. Aileen is the joy of my life. Aileen is in no way a ball and chain in my life. So when we got married she was fully supportive of me as I was working a retail job. She loved me despite the fact that this was not a great job. There were not great prospects here. Then I decided I had to go to school and train for something and that’s a little bit better in prospects, and she supported me there. In fact, she worked at a fish and chips restaurant. She worked the morning shift, cleaning fish and cleaning the restaurant, the morning shift at a fish and chips restaurant while pregnant to help me get through school so I could get training to do something.

She supported me when I got that first job that paid almost nothing. She supported me when we had to pick and move because the commute from where we were living to this new job was absolutely killing me. She supported me when I got laid off there, and I needed to find another job. She supported me when I got laid off a second time and decided to start my own company, doing this computer thing, doing network design and web design. She was fully supportive even though that was scary for her. I’m a bit of a risk taker. She’s not. But she supported me. She supported me when the church came to me and appealed to me: “You’re already an elder at this church. Would you like to be an associate pastor—come on staff here and serve the church in that way?” She was fully supportive, even though she had no idea she’d be called upon to be a pastor’s wife and to serve in that way. She was fully supportive when I realized I had come to the point where I couldn’t keep doing both the writing and the pastoring, that I’d have to choose one. And it seemed like I was going to choose to do the writing. She fully supported me in that as well.

All through my life she has been there. Ever since I was twenty years old, and we started seeing one another she has been there for me. She has been supportive of me. She’s been my best friend. She’s been my closest ally. She’s been my staunch companion through every little bit of it.

Is there any way in which she holds me back? Only in the sense that that’s what marriage is about. Tying yourself to someone and saying I’m going to live in love for you. I’m going to live in a way that serves you. I’m going to live in a way that honors you. I’m going to let go of some of my preferences. I’m not going to make some of the choices I would rather make because I love you.

And so for all these years she’s been there for me. For all these years she’s supported me. For all these years she’s freed me up to do what I believe I’m called to do. She’s been supportive of me as I’ve switched careers as so many people do, trying to find my way. She supported me as I’ve had some false starts, as I’ve made some mistakes, as I’ve made some blunders. She supported me even when I’ve been kind of a jerk toward her. She’s loved me and cared for me through it all. And don’t we see that again when I come down with this syndrome. I can’t type. What’s the first thing she says? She reminds me, “We’re in this together. If I’ve got to stop doing some of what I do, I’ll let those things go, and I’ll sit with you, and I will type for you. I’ll be there for you. We’re going to get through this together.” That’s what she said.

I was feeling down. I said, “I don’t know. This is affecting my livelihood. I’m a writer who can’t write.” She was right there for me to support me. Even when I was in that camera store, I wasn’t there apart from her. I was there with her blessing.

It was partly her idea: “Let’s try some video! Let’s try something you can do where you can still communicate, you can still do your job, but without writing.” She’s been fully supportive of me.

So what I say to you is don’t refer to my wife in that way. Some day if you have a wife don’t refer to her in that way. Choose to celebrate the things that she is. Choose to honor the things that she does for you. If you refer to her in that way it’s because that idea has lodged in your mind that she’s holding you back. Aileen does not hold me back in any way. She frees me up. She allows me to be who I can be. In fact, she’s so much on my side that she makes me a better person. She makes me who I am but in a much better way, in a much fuller way. She doesn’t hold me back. She frees me up. And that’s just one more reason that I love her so much and that I really want to honor her in my life, that I really want to honor her even and especially in the way I speak of her. She is my joy. She is my love and will always be.

That’s what I’ve got to say today. I’ll be back in a couple days with another video. Hopefully something that will be of interest. If you like this video, there’s a little Like button below it. Why don’t you hit that? Or if you’d like to be reminded when I post new videos, why don’t you hit the Subscribe button? Hopefully I’ll find some things to say here that will be of some interest and of some value. Thanks for watching.

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