was hurting. I had reason to hurt. Spine surgery was good reason. The
surgeon discovering my spinal nerves were “a tangled mess” was good
Feel sorry for me?
That’s what I wanted. That’s
what I craved. Self-pity enveloped me as my sick body bore the added
burden of a crushed spirit.
During my first days home from
the hospital, I entered the Land of Me. Yes, it’s natural for patients
to focus on themselves, their own pain, their own issues regarding
getting around, finding a place of comfort, handling their limitations,
fears and insecurities. And yet…and yet…
It was a Tuesday, just six days
after my surgery. I was as cranky as the wicked stepmother in
“Cinderella.” Even though my husband had been taking good care of me,
even though my family was attentive, I felt alone and quite sorry for
myself. Why hadn’t so-and-so sent a card? Or flowers? Why hadn’t this
other person even mentioned my surgery? Didn’t they know? Didn’t they
A certain e-mail set me off. The
acquaintance wrote that they’d heard I was doing “great.” What? I
wasn’t doing great! I hurt inside and out! How dare they discount my
pain! And so I replied to the e-mail, explaining just how much I was
On that day, even my husband was
testy. Perhaps he’d had enough of caregiving, or perhaps I wasn’t a
good patient. He even had the audacity to say, “Today I need to get
something done.” The two of us fed each other’s bad attitudes, so a bad
day got worse. Snap, snap, gripe, grouch, claw, and crab.
It all came down to this: How
dare the world go on without me?
I cried over this and sulked
about that. The world was mean and unfeeling. As was God. Where was He
anyway? Didn’t He know I needed Him? My heart called out Psalm 25:
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The
troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Look
upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins” (Ps.
But then, in the midst of my
pouting and pain, our daughter called. She’d had a hard day at her job
working with autistic children, she didn’t feel well, and she had too
much on her plate and not enough time to get things done. Hearing her
cry out for love and compassion, I momentarily set my pity party aside
and comforted her. I built her up and helped her find a glimmer of sun
through the clouds.
As my daughter turned to me in
her anguish, looking for relief, God responded to my plea. By helping
her, God helped me break through the cloudy bank of storms that had
been hanging low over me. There, in the distance,
was a glimmer of sunlight if only I could focus on finding it.
Then a simple phrase set itself
front and center: It’s not about you.
I wanted to argue. It was about
me. I was the one who’d endured surgery, and now had to deal with—
It’s not about you.
But couldn’t it be? For just a
little bit? Couldn’t people pay more attention to me? Couldn’t—
It’s not about you.
I ran out of arguments. I’d had
a successful surgery. I was on the mend. Other people had problems that
far overshadowed my own. Besides, what good did it do to have a pity
party if no one else came?
gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the
LORD” (Prov. 16:20 NIV).
And so, after a little soul
searching, I gave God a moment of my mood, apologized for it, and asked
for His continued help to keep me moving toward the light.
He answered: “Good and
upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He
guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (Ps.
25:8–9 NIV). As I transitioned from ME-dom to WE-dom, I began to cry.
Again. But these tears were different, because they were tears of shame
and release and humility.
But it wasn’t good enough to
merely feel sorry for my attitude; I had to take action.
I reread some e-mails that I had
responded to during my funk and sent apologies for my terse, woe-is-me
replies. In them I publicly acknowledged God’s protective hand over my
surgery, and thanked people for their prayers. I took my husband’s
hands in mine and said, “We need a truce. No more snapping at each
other. And by the way, I really appreciate your taking such good care
of me.” And most important, I bowed my head and thanked God for
bringing me through the surgery, for the wisdom and skill of the
doctors, and for a bright future that would involve long walks with my
husband and running after my grandkids, free of pain.
As this strong spring breeze
blew across my life, the clouds of pessimism dissipated completely, and
the next day, what I would have seen as negative was positive. What had
been bad was good. The dark had been totally transformed by the light.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never
walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12 NIV).
The new happiness came in many
forms, some big and some small.
A spring catalog came in the
mail. It advertised outfits in bright colors and fresh patterns. Soon I
would be able to walk without pain and I would lose a little weight and
. . . how much fun it would be to wear some of these fashions that made
me happy just looking at them!
I got a response to one of my
e-mail apologies that was full of grace and humor and friendship.
And when the doorbell rang that
afternoon, my husband answered it and brought me a box. “You owe
someone an apology.” There was a PajamaGram from two of my dearest
friends. Thank you, God, for giving me these friends. I know
they were always there, but I was too self-absorbed and focused on the
negative that I didn’t appreciate what and who I had in my life.
How could life be so negative
and horrible one day and a single day later, be good and full of
kindness, and make me excited to be a part of it?
The key was in letting ME die.
Attitude is everything. Attitude
is powerful. Attitude can tear down or build up.
It comes down to this anonymous
quote: A life of self is death, but the death of self
. . . is life.
Praise be to God.