I was coming to the end of my third pregnancy, the c-section date had been set, I was in the final stages of preparations of meals prepared, baby clothes washed and folded, crib set up, the family was ready. Then the back issues and pain my husband had been under came to a crisis and after multiple reviews, the verdict was in. Immediate back surgery. Now. Not later. Now. This news was delivered 21 days out from this planned c-section. The surgery could be within days. So, the date was set. 17 days out from my planned c-section, my husband would undergo back surgery with a lengthy recovery period to follow.
I was supportive. I was concerned. I was in agreement.
But surprising even me, one evening I ended up on a good friend’s doorstep in tears.
“This was supposed to be about me!” I exclaimed.
She listened, offered a tissue or two, welcomed me in to her home, sat me down on the couch, gave me cookies and iced tea. And listened. I got it out. The unsuspected selfishness at claiming, “This was supposed to be about me!”
I dried my tears, content that I had been heard. Not judged, not dismissed, not reprimanded. I was treated kindly by my friend. But she reminded me that despite my emotions and disappointment and even fears, “This was not about only me!” I went home and carried on to fulfill my marriage vows of “in sickness and in health.” This is what that looks like I reminded myself.
My husband understood, my friends understood, I understood.
A very familiar verse came to mind to balance me out. We are certainly to take care of responsibilities and interests for self, but we are to look also to the interests of others. This included my husband even at this time where I thought it was going to be about me. It needs to be about us both. I was reminded he had been celebrating my condition all along, now we would add taking an interest in his. Together.
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. (Philippians 2:4 NLT)
This was 27 years ago and I remember that night on my friend’s doorstep like it was yesterday. I remember her understanding and kindness. I remember coming home and resolving to do this hard thing as partners in this life, “in sickness and in health,” even at the same time.
God brought us both to this point so we could allow Him to work, doing something we had been trying to accomplish for years. In our time of need, with both of us physically out of commission, for indeed the back surgery and c-section happened 17 days apart, we saw friends and family from all parts of our lives come together and work together on our behalf. These were our church friends, our neighborhood friends, our close family and extended family. Bringing meals, cutting our lawn, taking our children to and from school and activities…inquiring of us our needs and fulfilling them.
I learned then and I remember now that “It’s not about me!” It’s about God working to teach me to look out also for the needs of others. And in full circle fashion, my needs will be taken care of as well.
The life of ministry is that balance of understanding. As we serve others, we attend to ours alongside them. Then God works it all together in a full circle fashion to bring Him glory and for our collective benefit.
That time 27 years ago was a difficult challenge, but what a rich lesson and a fleshed-out picture of Philippians 2:4 it was. Let God show you the way and do it for you too.