We’re in the home stretch leading up to my surgery now. Much of the time, it still feels not quite real. I’m still mostly asymptomatic, and yet I’m about to let some guy open my skull with a drill and cutting tool (“like they do a jack-o-lantern” as my friend puts it) and get to work cutting the bad stuff out – or at least as much as is possible without doing too much other damage. And yet just three days ago I ran 13.1 miles. Is this really about to happen?
Julie has put a sign on our bedroom door. It’s a line from one of her favorite country songs and she uses it to count up our time together since that initial seizure. It makes me happy to see it and is one of many ways that people have shown their feelings for me. I especially like that she’s left room for so many tick marks. I truly have been so blessed along the way by your warmth and compassion. I’ve received dozens of cards and way too many people to count telling me that they’re praying for me. I feel them and thank you. Whether it was driving me to/from work or arranging a surprise Skyline Chili lunch that included current and former colleagues at work, my friends and family have made me the beneficiary of more love and kindness than anyone really deserves.
I particularly want to call attention to those who have provided support and love to my family. This whole thing is more difficult on them than it is on me – not because I am special or unique. I believe this is true all of the time. The family is burdened – emotionally, physically, logistically – just as much, if not more, than me. And yet it’s me who gets the lion’s share of the direct support. So, for those of you who have expressed kindness and said a prayer for them, know that I am even more grateful for that as I am for what you’ve done directly for me.
The 13.1 mile run I referred to earlier was the Cap City Classic here in Columbus. It was the culmination of a “Run for God” ministry that our church participates in. As you might expect, it’s a combined physical and spiritual journey that helps you get closer to God and I highly recommend it (particularly if the class is led by my friend Ben Reed). At the start of the class, we were asked to pick a word to focus on for the duration of the class. My word was “humility”. It’s been unreal how strong a role that word would come to play in my life since January.
It began with a run where I spent time thinking of how runners demonstrate humility in celebrating personal records, even for folks in the back of the pack. Runners are also forced to make themselves aware of their own limits lest they risk injury. These initial thoughts carried through to conversations I had with colleagues around town who had agreed to let me talk to them about what separated good consultants from poor ones. The message was consistent. The best consultants were those who showed up ready to learn from their clients before arrogantly suggesting solutions.
I gave a talk on humility at the Columbus Ruby Brigade. It wasn’t really good and I felt humbled by my lack of preparation. And then a few days after that, Jim Weirich passed away. Jim was one of the people in my life who best demonstrated what true humility was. I was forced to reassess my understanding of the word. The joy, openness and approachability Jim showed to everyone dramatically changed how I came to understand it.
And now I find myself in a situation where my understanding shifts yet again. Yes, humility is not thinking too highly of oneself. And yes it’s making everyone you come into contact with feel special. But it’s also about making yourself vulnerable and recognizing your dependence on the help and service of God and others.
I am the first born son of a first born son – for seven generations. My mom told me that more times than I could possibly count as I grew. Whether it was her intention or not, the message in my mind was clear. Be proud of who you are and be an independent and responsible person. Up to a point, it’s hard to find fault with that. It’s very much made me into the kind of person I am. But it’s not really a message of humility. To be truly humble requires you to embrace your dependence on others.
By far, the biggest adjustment for me in the last 6+ weeks has been this forced dependence. It’s frequently uncomfortable and not very natural to me. But it has been a gift. I never would have considered a brain tumor a blessing. But the things I’ve learned by going through this process have helped me to understand that I’m a better person, and closer to what God wants of me, when I attempt to be truly humble, in all subtleties of the word. I’m not sure it’s possible to be completely successful, but I know I have to keep trying.
And so it is that I now think about what’s about to happen in the coming days and weeks. I can’t help but again reflect on the love I’ve received and the wisdom I’ve gained. And I will very soon be stripped bare of any semblance of independence – at least for awhile. Humility is coming whether I want it or not.
The prayers you all say for me and my family warm my heart. My prayers are for discernment of God’s purpose in my life and for peace of mind, love, and support for my family and friends.
God bless you all and thanks again for everything you’ve done up to now and everything you continue to do.