Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Lessons In Humility

Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility. - Saint Augustine

Howdy All and Happy New Year! I am SO sorry it has been a while since I have posted to the Blog. It has not been for lack of material, I assure you! Indeed, the last several weeks have been incredibly eventful, fraught with changes and challenges, but enriched by some nice victories as well.

As many of you reading this already know, I left Dell Inc. in April of 2007 - after 14 years at the company - to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter and screenwriter. I had bathed this decision in months and months of prayer, and felt very certain about the choice I was making. As is often the case with any major, life-changing decision, I felt a normal mix of anticipation and trepidation. I was confident that some very cool and exciting things lay ahead, but that confidence was coupled with a natural fear of the unknown. I remember shortly before I left Dell someone asked me, "So...are you excited? Are you scared?" And I replied, "Yes and yes." Truer words never spoken. I was thrilled, but terrified.

I am pleased to report that, in the months since leaving Dell, the terror has abated significantly, while the excitement has only grown. Long-dormant creative spaces in my heart and mind have been opened up, and I have written more in the last 8 months than I had in the last 8 years. It has been tremendously satisfying, and a real blast. It has also been abounding in personal and spiritual growth, new experiences, and lessons learned. There is so much that I could write about! But today, I want to write about some Lessons In Humility that I have experienced over the course of the last few months. First, let's take a look at Webster's definition here:

1. Marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful.

2. Showing deferential or submissive respect: a humble apology.
3. Low in rank, quality, or station; unpretentious or lowly

Now, upon my first mention of humility and upon reading the above definition of it, you might have felt an uncomfortable twinge. The word sounds so similar to humiliation, and can suggest a beating down of sorts. But really, this is not the case, at least not as far as I'm concerned. Humility is not something that I consider to be a negative thing. Indeed, as a Bible-believing Christian, I believe humility to be a high calling, a quality that is highly praised and valued and honored by my God. It is a characteristic that brings one into deeper communion with Him, into greater understanding of oneself, and into greater compassion and empathy for one's fellow man.

Having said that, Lessons In Humility can make you feel lousy. Real stinkin' lousy.

I mean, for me to fail to mention that would be dishonest and disingenuous. But I'll say again, it's the real stinkin' lousy times that strengthen and stretch us, and ultimately, remind of us who we are and where our true value and identity come from. So, I can honestly say, I am truly grateful for these humbling events and what they have taught me.

My first significant Lesson In Humility occurred in July when I attended the Gospel Music Association Festival in Estes Park, Colorado. If you refer to my August posts, you will see that my days at the GMA Festival were incredibly valuable and great fun, and the whole experience was tremendously positive. But the week did hold its share of humbling experiences. In the course of the week, I decided to participate in the Vocal Competition. I had not planned on doing this, as I was primarily there to learn, but decided that it would be great experience to do so. My critique sheets from the music industry judges were generally positive, but many of the marks were just average or (gasp!) slightly-below-average. For the last 22 years of my life, I have been praised and lauded and exalted for my music and singing abilities, so receiving average to slightly-below-average marks was humbling indeed.

LESSONS LEARNED: 1) I am not "all that", 2) there are MANY talented people out there, and many who are more talented than me, and 3) I have to work work work on my craft so that I can continue to get better. No resting on natural ability. For these Lessons In Humility, I am so grateful, for "God gives grace to the humble." (Proverbs 3:34)

Lessons In Humility, Round 2 began in the middle of August, when I suddenly began to feel strangely ill. It is important to note here that I am a person who is rarely sick. Growing up, I had many years of perfect school attendance. In 14 years at Dell, I think I missed a total of about 7 days due to illness. Stomach viruses, flu bugs, colds and sore throats would sweep through my entire family or work area and pass me right over. And even when I did get sick, it would rarely keep me down and out for too long. But this - this was a bear. To this day, I'm not sure exactly what I had, and the only real diagnosis I ever got following numerous visits to the doctor was "some kind of virus." The mystery virus would strike me for two or three days at a time, go away for a few days, and then rear its ugly head again. It was marked by extreme fatigue, achiness, general malaise, and a wicked, I'd-rather-spit-than-have-to-swallow sore throat. The virus came and went for weeks. I spent days at a time in bed. I had never in my life experienced anything like it.

One night, during what would be the virus's final appearance, the sore throat pain was so severe, that I actually decided to take some painkiller. The painkiller hardly touched the pain, but it did help me sleep. And I'll spare you details here, but painkiller has always had a somewhat unfortunate effect on my body, and this situation was no exception. Let's just say that the resolution to this issue involved an enema. Lovely. TMI? Perhaps. Sorry.

Following said enema, I lay prostrate on the ground of my bathroom floor - sick, exhausted, lonely, and spent, my tears falling onto the bathroom tile. I thought of one of my favorite lyrics from the song "To Life (L'Chaim)" from "Fiddler On The Roof": God would like us to be joyful even when our hearts lie panting on the floor. Joy I could not muster, but calling on my God and praying for His mercy? That I could do. And did. And mercy came. The virus never returned again.

LESSONS LEARNED: 1) Good health, which I have enjoyed my entire life, is a precious gift that is not to be taken for granted, 2) I have a new understanding of the pain and isolation that comes with illness, and 3) I am not in control. For these Lessons In Humility, I am so grateful, for "God gives grace to the humble." (Proverbs 3:34)

In between bouts of the virus, I was interviewing at various restaurants to be a server, and was getting resoundingly rejected by all of them. Many of these establishments had advertised that this was "a perfect job for students!" But somehow, as a 38-year old college graduate with 14 years of corporate experience, I was unqualified to sling hash. Ouch.

I did finally get hired by California Pizza Kitchen (I know - YUM), and I am now beginning my fourth month there. (More on CPK in future posts). Overall, all has gone very well at CPK, but it has brought its share of humbling experiences as well. Chief among them has been the fact that, with the exception of one or two co-workers, no one really seems to want to be my friend. I've never had trouble making friends, and my life is blessed by an abundance of them. But I have tried and tried with these folks, mostly to no avail. Recently, a co-worker asked if I could cover her Thursday dinner shift if she covered my Thursday lunch shift. I readily agreed! But I later found out that she needed the Thursday night off to attend a birthday party for one of our co-workers, a party that I was quite clearly not invited to. Ouch again. The simple truth is that I am not used to this type of thing.

LESSONS LEARNED: 1) I am more grateful than ever for the friends in my life, for how unbelievably awesome they are, and for the ease with which we allowed ourselves into each other's lives and 2) I have a newfound compassion for those who have difficulty making friends, for those who have ever felt the sting of rejection or dismissal, something that I have only rarely experienced. For these Lessons In Humility, I am so grateful, for "God gives grace to the humble." (Proverbs 3:34)

When I left Dell, I did so in order to achieve my goal of becoming an artist. My goal in becoming an artist was so that I could create works that would reach people, speak to them, and maybe, possibly, hopefully reach the broken places of their lives. Today, I feel better equipped to do that because of the humbling experiences of the last several months. These experiences did not feel good, not one bit. But God has a way of bringing good out of just about anything, and I am ready to stand as a testimony to that truth.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

WELCOME back sweetie!! I was sooooo happy to check out your blog(as ive been doing time to time) to see that you are writing again!!

Now, sounds like I need to come by and rough up a few knuckleheads for ya at your new place of employement..just say the word and its DONE!! ; )

Love ya,