I’ve found no better way to get out of myself than getting into a hospital. Such was the case two weeks ago today, when my appendix burst at 2:00 in the morning. Had my wife not taken control and said, “we’re going to the emergency room right now”, I’d most likely be dead. See, I thought I had food poisoning, and that pain in my side? Muscle tears from all the vomiting and dry-heaving. That’s how in-tune I am with my body: I’d been rubbing Ben-Gay on my swollen appendix for almost a week.
Step Three: made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.
I spent 3 nights and 4 days in the care of strangers. Everything was out of my hands. I had no choice but to rely on others, and to trust that they knew what was best for me. My survival instinct tore down the walls of defense. My biggest decision was cherry or lime gelatin.
That left a whole lotta time to lay perfectly still and ponder. Eventually, it became more than a hospital visit: it became a life checkpoint. I evaluated my place among my family, my friends, my co-workers, my fellowship. Were things better than they were five years ago? No question – yes. Were things where I wanted them to be? No question – no. I still have expectations of how things should be, and false beliefs as to why they aren’t the way I want them.
What was the most eye-opening was my inability to nail down exactly what was bothering me and what I was clinging to. With nothing to do and nowhere to go, it became clear that everyone had my best interests at heart. People weren’t plotting against me; they were sending me get-well wishes. So who was putting obstacles in my way other than myself?
On day one they operated, and I woke up back in my hospital room and was introduced to my overnight nurse, a young kid in his early twenties with a sunny disposition and a big smile on his face. He’d be with me for two of my nights. I immediately liked him, and not just because of the pain medication. The first thing he told me was, “everything went great, and you’ve got nothing to worry about. Just close your eyes and rest; everything else is being taken care of.” He checked on me every couple of hours, and I think we talked about baseball.
It was his second night on duty that put things in perspective for me. Sometime in the wee small hours of the morning, I caught a glimpse of a tattoo on his left arm, mostly hidden by his sleeve. I made out the last two words: Jesus Christ. I sleepily raised my arm and pointed at the tattoo. But before I could say anything he took my hand in his and asked what I needed. “Uh, I’m just wondering about that, on your arm, what’s that?”
He smiled wide and squeezed my hand, and slid up his sleeve to reveal a prayer that must’ve started somewhere around his shoulder. “This is my base,” he said, “this is just a base to start off each day right. I need to remember that I’m on this earth for others.”
I don’t know what the prayer was, or what he said after that, as I’m pretty sure I fell back to sleep, but I awoke the next morning knowing one thing: I needed to establish my own base each morning, one that goes beyond myself, one that filters through others.
What I learned: It’s not enough to not do things. It’s time to contribute.