The Text Message That Saved Me (Let My Blog-Processing of Jeff’s Surgery Begin…)

Tuesday night I was sitting in the waiting room of Kennestone Hospital, well…waiting…to hear how my husband was, how his surgery went, what the verdict was and what was next for him and our family. I was doing what I do in moments like this – writing, thinking, praying. And not necessarily in that order. The three intricately weave together in the working out of my faith in ways even I don’t fully understand. It was into this complicated moment, where my faith was intersecting my fear that I got a text message.

“Are you alone?”

I stopped what I was doing as I suddenly realized that “yes”, I was alone. Of course, the Sunday School answer is that Jesus was with me and I am never really alone…but please…we all know what the question was asking. “Is there someone with skin on them, who knows and loves you, sharing the same physical and emotional space with you right now? Is there someone there who can hug you and listen to you and go get a coke for you if you need it?”

And the answer was no. There wasn’t anyone with me. I was all by myself.

I wasn’t really surprised that I was alone. Since we are relatively new in our area, our ‘old’ friends were far away and our ‘new friends’ were still a bit too new to feel comfortable in calling. Family members were taking care of the kids so I could be where I was. I didn’t think there was anyone to call.

In my defense, I am a natural introvert who easily disappears into my inner world, often for long periods of time before coming up for daylight. I am fully capable of being alone without being lonely. Much of my last year was spent holed up in solitary and I guess it has become something of my “normal”. Historically, in difficult circumstances, my family of origin would also circle the wagons, so I was just following my internal programming. And in a moment like this, not being sure of how I was going to react or what exactly the news was going to be, I sort of wanted to be by myself.

What startled me wasn’t that I was sitting alone in a hospital waiting room. It was that I hadn’t even noticed.  The room was half full while I was there and as I looked around, I saw that everyone else was rather noisily sitting in their groups. Couples. Families. Crazy cousins. Grandkids. Friends. Church folk. And me in the corner. Alone.

What does this say about me? In a moment where most people reach out to others, I shut down. I found an emotional cave and was setting up camp. Once I was aware, even I realized that what I was in the process of doing wasn’t healthy.

And as I probed a little deeper, I realized that several dangerous lies had begun covertly swirling around the edges, whispering to me just under my consciousness. “Asking for help will only confirm to you how little you matter and how little they care.” “Surely others are too busy for me.” And, “I can do this on my own.”

Pressure on the outside has a profound way of surfacing what is on the inside.

And not being aware…not slowing down long enough to realize what is happening around and inside of me…I could have gone to a very dangerous place very quickly. That text message saved me.

It was a wake-up call to awareness. Of where I was. Of how I was. Of where I was heading.

I was vividly reminded of why I need friends who know and love me, who can draw my attention to what I cannot see on my own. Especially in the midst of a season where my attention is occupied.

As soon as I named those lies however, I started feeling profoundly lonely…and sad…and a host of other things that began making their way up out of my inner places, asking for some of my time. Naming and becoming aware of those emotions prompted me to do a few things. The next morning, I made some phone calls. I asked my friend to come and be with me. I connected via email with some important-to-me-but-not-nearby people. And I took note of where a few land mines are located in my heart. Because I’m not exactly looking down at my feet right now while I’m walking this particular path.

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Dangerous Times

Proverbs 15:22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Proverbs 27:12 The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

My dad, who was both a fixed wing and helicopter pilot in the army, once told me something very interesting about pilots. He told me that the most dangerous time for a pilot, that season of their professional lives when they are most likely to have a flight accident is not during the first few years out of flight school, when they are young and inexperienced. And it isn’t during the last few years of their careers, when they are old and perhaps tired or overconfident. The most dangerous time for a pilot is the years in between those two extremes.

My father explained that new pilots are hyper-vigilant, constantly aware of the weight of the responsibility they bear. Younger pilots tend to go to extremes of caution to make up for their lack of experience. They checklist everything, ask for help and keep their eyes wide open for potential mistakes. On the other hand, older pilots have years of flying under their belt. They know the dangers of their field and have probably known pilots who have had accidents. They know how to solve most problems they will face, know when to ask for help and aren’t too proud to do so. They, like their young counterparts, are also statistically safe.

New pilots are cautious. Old pilots are experienced.

The most dangerous pilots are those in between new and old, who are neither cautious nor experienced. These are the pilots who have been flying long enough for the initial fear to wear off, but not long enough to realize they don’t know everything. Lack of caution plus arrogance equals mistakes. And in an airplane, that can be disastrous.

Married people follow the same pattern. Couples are never more aware of the health of their marriage and willing to learn and change than during that first year. And couples who have survived and thrived after decades of marriage obviously understand what it takes to successfully live with and love another person.

It’s those couples in the in-between years who are most often in danger. They have been together long enough to become  comfortable. Over the years, blind spots and tolerance for unhealthy habits form. The edge of fear and newness wears off. At the same time, they’ve been married long enough to feel like they know more about marriage than they actually do. They might even be afraid to ask for help as it would be a sign of weakness.

It appears to me that the same is true of those in the Christian faith. New believers are so passionate, so teachable and so energetic, dying to make their faith work. They ask questions and listen to counsel. And older believers have collected wisdom and experience that both protects and yields fruit in their lives. The ones most in danger are those who have walked with God long enough to think they know something about walking with God, but not long enough to realize that they don’t know much at all. When crises come, they leave too soon, choose poorly and don’t ask for help until it is too late.

The application? Humility and help! Awareness of the reality of my situation and internal condition. Asking people to look at areas of my life, where they might have clearer vision and offer constructive comments. And endurance. Keeping on, doing wise things and being open to learning more, in both my marriage and my faith. I want to make it to those years where I might actually know something about what I’m doing.