Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? I remember the first time it happened to me as a kid. I was playing soccer and took a ball to the stomach before I knew how to tighten those muscles to protect myself. It knocked that wind straight out of me and by golly I thought I was going to die. DIE I tell you. But, I didn’t, it just hurt and scared me for those few moments. Those are the kind of moments you realize you don’t actually have control and that, my friends, can be pretty scary.
Last month I shared about the road we walked with our son when he was diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy. During the first year of that trial, our life was intense. We were on edge. We learned more lessons in that exhausting year than I ever thought possible. God was working on us. Not only was he working on rooting out fears we had about Him, He was showing us new things about ourselves and the state of our hearts when thrown into a situation where we lost all control. I can look back now and see many ways I was grasping to have control of *something* during that time because my life felt like total chaos. What I want to share with you though, is one of those “wind knocked out of me” moments.
I will never forget one of our visits to the emergency department at Children’s. Hewitt had been having so many seizures he couldn’t walk, he could barely talk and I couldn’t keep him safe from his toys anymore. He was bruised, drooling like a baby and barely coherent. I sat in the emergency department that night and felt the bitterness creeping up from inside. I was bitter that I was there with my 3 year old. Bitter that he had bruises on his face. Bitter that I couldn’t protect him from the falls. Bitter that my life had become one endless mess of counting seizures, making sure I had the emergency meds with me, being fearful that he would die in his sleep, it went on and on. I started looking around the room and mocking people in my head. “Oh, does your baby have a fever? Poor thing. Must be rough. How about you? Oh, a cough? Your kid has a cough? How scary. And, as I sat there knowing that my thought process was wrong, knowing that my heart was deceiving me, I couldn’t stop myself. I was so angry. And then, oh boy, and then, a mom came through those sliding doors, pushing a stroller. The stroller had a blanket over it and I could see little legs sticking out the bottom. They were cute legs, little girl legs with fun ruffly baby legs on them. Another twang of bitterness hit me. This time my longing for a little girl crept in too. I sat there watching them, while Hewitt lay in my lap. She rolled her around to check-in as I sat there annoyed that she had covered her stroller with a blanket. Oooo is she too sick; don’t want the hospital germs to get in? As I internally rolled my eyes, she finished checking her in, rolled the stroller around the corner and sat down to my left. Then she pulled the blanket off to check on her baby. That’s when it happened. It was a straight hit to the gut, all muscles lax, just sitting there - vulnerable from the criticisms in my own ugly heart. Her sweet baby girl lay there in that stroller and with my one short and angry glance; I could see the extent of her facial deformity. It ran the entire length of her face and in that moment the baby, the mom, all the people sitting in that room become glaringly human and vulnerable. Because with all of the love that a mother has for her child, this mother looked upon her baby’s face with love and protection in the same way I looked upon Hewitt. All the thoughts that had run through my head in the 20 minutes before came flying back at me. One hard ball after another, and they were all direct hits. I sat there, grasping for air…fighting the tears because the regret outweighed the bitter. At that moment, God showed me, it wasn’t about comparing. It wasn’t about who‘s life was harder or sadder. We all have stuff. ALL of us have something and none of us deserve to be looked at the way I was looking at all those people. How different our lives would be if we would stop sitting back and comparing. I wish we could break the habit of thinking we know people before we do. If we would stop writing everyone else’s story before even knowing it, we might have more room in our heads to create new friendships and judge one another less. Dale Carnegie, the author of the classic book “How to win friends and influence people” said “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” As much as I wish what happened to Hewitt could be erased from existence; I will never regret the lessons I learned through the experience. As moms, it’s easy to get wrapped up in our own worlds, our kids, our needs and everything else about *us* and sometimes it takes a life altering situation to open our eyes to the needs and pain of those around us.