Facing challenges with Humility

Some of you who are reading this are aware of a “few” difficulties I faced back in late 2010 and 2011. I was reminded of my mortality not once but twice after having a spinal fusion surgery in mid-November 2010. A “nicked” dura with spinal fluid loss, four pulmonary embolisms, and a subsequent infection from hell in my brain, spinal fluid and bone (vertebrae) led to two back-to-back intensive care inpatient stays totaling of 23 days. I finally left Bethesda/Walter Reed NRMC late December 2010 walking with a cane and PIC line in my arm requiring 5 infusions of antibiotics a day and daily anticoagulant meds. Two weeks after I arrived home, learning to walk again and take a shower unattended, my husband of 23 years deployed to Baghdad, Iraq for 12 months. To say this simply – I had no idea how I was going to make it. I had never felt so weak, compromised and out-of-sorts in my entire life. Childbirth and sleeplessness were a breeze compared to this. Strangely however, I was not alarmed nor worried. I was in survival mode focusing only on the basics. Unaware of the major challenges, I clearly knew I was still alive after going through some serious “hell”.  I had not driven a car in 8 weeks, could barely walk more than 2 rooms length, and became exhausted after completing my basic hygiene. Despite my circumstances, a persistent voice kept echoing in my head: You’re not alone. Take your time, take care of yourself, take small steps after and ask for help. 

A walk to the mailbox was my big outing for the day. Each day I was determined to walk father – a few more feet. A significant accomplishment was a walk to the corner and back home again – an outing that left me completely exhausted. The next day and the next, I would walk a few more feet and return home – mentally celebrating each and every accomplishment.

Mind you – there were days I hit bottom. Four weeks after my hospital discharge, I partially returned to work to find out that my job was eliminated and I no longer had a salaried position. I went home in shock, wondering what catastrophe could possibly happen next. I was determined to find a way to persevere but along that route, I truly hit a bottom – several times. Bottom is  not a welcomed place; no one wants to or envisions themselves at the bottom, overwhelmed by circumstances.  The US military has a fitting acronym to describe by status: O.B.E. – “Overcome By Events“.

A few weeks later, exhausted and sensing defeat, I crawled into my “hole”. I wanted to be alone; just me,  my shattered ego and battered body. I just could not imagine that I would be very good company for anyone.  All I had on my mind was my health and my circumstances. For 26 years, I was the one helping others. As a licensed professional counselor, I helped them with their dilemmas, and tended to their hurt and pain. Now, my world was filled with agony and I did not want to burden anyone with it. One day, a dear friend called me saying: “I haven’t heard from you in a while. Are you o.k.?” My response was a big fat lie. I told her I was “fine” but just didn’t have anything to say. Yes – I lied. I didn’t want to bother her. The next day, she called again. She said: “I want out of the house. Let’s go somewhere.” She knew. My angel of mercy sent from Heaven knew all was not well and I was not myself. So, I complied and left the house accompanying her for her “outing.  I needed that outing more than I ever knew. The human connection from which I had withdrawn was the very compassion I needed to provide more healing .  There were others angels of mercy….my dear lady friends from my neighborhood who befriended me and loved dogs as much as I did. These people were my God-sent angels and saviors. Slowly, I allowed myself to accept the compassion of others with ease. Friends like this were the reasons why I survived. And so, the story of my new found humility begins.

What is humility? First, I am not a theologian nor scholar. I found the following excerpt on humility by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon Pride and Humility, delivered on August 17, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark,, England. This citation  (http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2010/02/20/charles-haddon-spurgeon-what-is-humility/)  sums up my perspective. Being humbled has been one of my best life lessons; where signing up for this university of life class was involuntary but filled with poignant irony.

Altar of Humility - the CrucifixationSpurgeon: Humility is to feel that we have no power of ourselves, but that it all comes from God. Humility is to lean on our beloved, to believe that he has trodden the winepress alone, to lie on his bosom and slumber sweetly there, to exalt him, and think less than nothing of ourselves. It is in fact, to annihilate self, and to exalt the Lord as all in all.

My thought behind this post involves facing a challenge, surviving and facing adversity – not alone but with the grace and goodness from our Creator. When I decided to take this “crazy” Korean plunge off the cliff career move, many people did not know the major challenges I survived. Triumph over a life-threatening events gave me a renewed zest and zeal for living. Please note,  I do not claim full ownership to my resilience. Credit goes to credit His mercy and grace.

Humbled by all that has transpired, I thank God for His mercy and His love shown to me through healing, and the love from family and friends. I am grateful and in awe everyday that I wake knowing how limited our time here will be. The benefit of being humbled brings one a sense of simplicity which helps shed fear and focus on the essence of living.

Officially in my mid 50s, I’ve never minded the aging process as I have always equated age with wisdom. Of course, this admiration for wisdom was lacked the very wisdom required to understand that the lessons of life are the birthright of humility. May your days ahead  bring you the richness of wisdom and continued growth through humility. Thinking of you during this most important day tomorrow celebrating forgiveness and rebirth – Easter. May God Bless you and keep you – always.


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