If you’ve lived for very long, you’ve likely experienced something traumatic. Oh, maybe you didn’t have open heart surgery or a near-death experience, but somewhere along the line you’ve gone through a “dark night of the soul.” Whether it was a physical challenge, an emotional nightmare or a spiritual crisis of faith, it’s not a comfortable place to reside!
I remember being bed-ridden for a year with a debilitating disc degeneration. After several months, unwelcome thoughts began to plague me; thoughts like, “I don’t want to live like this; I can see why people commit suicide.” A year earlier, even a few weeks earlier, I would have vehemently denied I would ever be in such a depressed state, susceptible to such despair!
Sure, I might have been somewhat neurotic and insecure, but believed I was reasonably well adjusted, a life-long believer and follower of Christ. Lying on the couch in traction, I felt like Eliza Doolittle from “My Fair Lady” protesting to Professor Higgins in her strong Cockney accent, “I’m a good girl, I am!” In other words, this shouldn’t happen to me!
1. Sometimes you need to ask for help.
I couldn’t do the dishes, vacuum the floor, wash clothes, prepare meals, and I was off work for that entire year. But I was too proud to ask for help.
That pride-filled spirit came from a long line of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of people. My parents lived through the Great Depression. My mother’s family piled the family car high with kids and possessions and headed to California, seeking work in the fruit orchards; John Steinbeck’s book, The Grapes of Wrath, could have been written about them. When they returned to Oklahoma, my grandfather became a bootlegger, producing homemade whiskey in a backwoods still. The Creel family did it all by themselves!
My father entered the “CCC” job program instituted after the Depression to help provide work for desperate people across the country. For as long as they lived, my parents scrimped, saved and survived – The Sutton family did it all by themselves!
That’s something to be proud of, of course. However, the accompanying message I grew up with was: “Don’t ask for anything; do it yourself!” I carried that message too far. It became Pride, with a Capital P. From that came another bit of schooling:
Eliza Doolittle grew up believing the most she could ever achieve was to have her own flower shop. Like Eliza, when our beliefs put such limitations on us, it takes something big to get our attention! For Eliza, that meant a prolonged time of elocution lessons, and learning to think, speak and act like a lady! For me, it required a year of enforced bed rest and time for prayer and contemplation.
3. You Need to Receive, As Well As Give
Jesus’ words, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive” had always been my mantra. During this trial, for me, who needed to learn to receive, I can also tell you it’s easier to give than receive.
In addition to my heaping dose of PRIDE, I was also a preacher’s kid who believed it was my job to “model perfection and GIVE to others.” Not only was it hard for me to ask for help, it was hard for me to lie on the couch while others brought meals, prayed for me, and did my dirty laundry.
4. Good Things Happen When You Learn Your Lessons!
Good things happened to Eliza Doolittle – After she completed training under Professor Higgin’s tutelage, she truly “became a lady.”
Good things happened to me too.
I got well.
I grew emotionally and spiritually.
And I will always remember the lessons learned during that difficult time – Eliza Doolittle and me – we had some things in common.