Lying in a hospital bed after cervical spine fusion surgery, I looked up at the television hooked to the ceiling and tried to watch the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Olympic winter games in Salt Lake City. Athletes paraded before me - all looking so healthy and strong. For a fleeting moment, I felt pathetic in comparison - immobilized in a neck brace and covered with bandages.
But then I remembered that many of the athletes now celebrating were once suffering like me, and had successfully bounced back from their injuries to lead dynamic lives again. A man who'd had a liver transplant was now snowboarding with energy and power. A woman who'd endured emergency brain surgery was figure skating gracefully once more. And there were numerous examples of others who'd suffered bad falls while skiing, yet were able to heal and participate again in the sport they loved.
You don't recover on your own
As inspirational as those athletes' stories were, they hadn't recovered on their own. Behind each athlete in the spotlight were people who loved him or her and worked hard to support the athlete in myriad ways. Parents had gotten up before dawn every day for years to drive their children to skating rinks, friends had raised money to help sponsor talented bobsled racers who longed to enter competition, neighbors had prayed for skiers who needed encouragement to shine.
Now I was facing an Olympic-sized challenge: Would I reach out to God and others for the strength to recover, or would I retreat into self-pity? Would I go for the gold, or would I accept defeat because I was too embarrassed to accept the support I needed to recover?
I was greatly relieved and grateful to be on the other side of my surgery, and I relished telling all the people who had prayed for me how God had answered their prayers. But now I felt a bit guilty asking my friends and family to keep on giving - after all, they had already done so much, devoting so much time to prayer for me. The surgery had been successful and without complications, so I wanted to say, "Thanks a lot! Look, I'm all better now! Goodbye!" and snowboard back into my old life again right away, without spending any more time and energy on medical concerns.
God, however, had other plans. I was prohibited from driving for six weeks -- six long weeks! -- and told not to turn my neck unnecessarily or lift anything heavier than five pounds for three months.
Accept the help you need
Up until this point, I'd rarely ever asked others for help of any kind. In fact, I'd prided myself on how well I managed my life, keeping an efficient schedule that combined parenthood, a job that was also a ministry, and more. My husband, daughter, and I lived about 40 minutes away from our church, and had grown accustomed to spending lots of time on the road when getting together with others. Most of the time, I never bothered to invite friends over, assuming that they'd think our neighborhood was too far away for them to drive. But I could handle the driving, the schedule, and everything else in my life - no problem. Then the surgery confined me to my simple little townhouse, and the mobile and exciting life I'd enjoyed so much before vanished for a time.
At first, I panicked when I thought of six weeks stretching out before me like drab curtains in a musty room. Wouldn't I be bored at home? I did get restless easily. What concerned me even more was my daughter Honor. She had depended on me to get her to preschool and pick her up each weekday, not to mention all the trips to dance class, the library, and her friends' houses. Would life stop for her, too? Then I thought about my husband. Not only did he have to deal with a wife in a neck brace who looked like the bride of Frankenstein, but he also had to run all the errands - to the grocery store, the post office, and more - for six whole weeks.