After we moved to Dayton to start a church, I became consumed with keeping the thing afloat. I threw myself into the task, working insane hours to make this dream of mine happen. Let me underscore the words dream of mine. My life during that period resembled the scene in Gulliver’s Travels where the six-inch-tall people of the island of Lilliput emptied Gulliver’s pockets of its contents. Upon seeing his pocket watch, they proclaimed it must be his god, because “he seldom did any thing without consulting it.”
One day, in the middle of this whirlwind, we were driving home from a lunch appointment with a potential staff member. I looked in the rearview mirror and noticed a bump on my one-year-old’s neck as she sat asleep in her car seat. I slammed on the brakes in order to assess this bump, which as new parents we immediately assumed was a tumor. Nervously, we rushed to the doctor’s office for a diagnosis: a swollen lymph node—nothing to be worried about. We sighed a deep breath of relief.
That incident, however, startled me so much that I began regularly checking her for similar bumps, just to be on the safe side. One day, sitting in a restaurant, my finger rolled over a bump just above her left shoulder blade. This time, however, I was relaxed, assuming it was a swollen lymph node, just like before. But we had it checked out, and when the doctor turned to us and said, “I want to take this out,” our hearts sank. Later that week, as they rolled my little girl into surgery, it was as if God handed me a special pair of glasses and said, “Here’s what’s important. Take a look. That golden egg you’re chasing, that’s an illusion. You think you’re doing my work, but you’re not. The work I gave you just went in for surgery.”
That moment both scared me and changed me. Here I was, presuming to do God’s work, when all along I was caught in our culture’s spellbinding definition of success and ignoring my family in the process. If it hadn’t been for that jolt, I might never have seen my life for how shallow and selfish it had become and changed my behavior. That experience, though I would never want to repeat it, was a gift in disguise.
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