Wednesday, January 15, 2014

True Courage

For some people, climbing into a hyperbaric oxygen chamber is not hard. If it needs to be done to heal the wound, they do it. They are not afraid and, aside from the inconvenience of five-day-a-week treatments, it's not really a big deal.

For one very sweet, gentle woman, however, that chamber opening was as frightening as the deepest, darkest chasm. She wasn't just afraid, she was terrified. The problem was that she had a wound that wouldn't heal. It finally became clear that it would take hyperbaric oxygen treatments to close it, and that's when her true colors became apparent. 

That first day, as we prepared her to roll into the chamber, she kept her eyes tightly shut. My first thought was that the lights were shining in her eyes and bothering her, so I asked. "Are the lights bothering you?"  She just shook her head. Not to be deterred, I delved a little deeper. "If the lights aren't bothering you, why do you have your eyes shut?" I asked. "I'm scared to death and I'm praying," was the quiet reply. Oh. All I could think of to say was, "Good. Keep praying."  She never opened her eyes. 

The nurses rolled her stretcher into the chamber, she stayed her full treatment time of 80 minutes, and we rolled her out. Eyes still shut. As I rested my stethoscope on her chest, with eyes still tightly shut, she asked, "is it over yet?"  I assured her it was - for today, but reminded her that she would have treatments five days a week, and would likely need thirty or forty treatments. Big tears filled her eyes, but she just nodded. 

I didn't really expect to see her the next day. The enormity of her fear was so overwhelming that I couldn't imagine her climbing on that stretcher and going another round. The next day she was back and right on time. It was the same thing all over again. She was terrified, never opened her eyes, and prayed the entire time. The answer to those prayers brought her through another treatment. The next day, and the day after that, and the next we repeated the same scene. Terrified, praying, and getting her treatments anyway, she kept right on coming. 

Before the wound healed, she had a total of 31 terrifying treatments.  She never stopped being afraid of the chamber, but she never let being afraid keep her from doing what must be done, and at the end of her trial, her wound was healed. She was the most courageous woman I have ever known. 

Most of us, in a situation where we were that afraid, would bail out. I have never seen anyone who walked on through their fear to that degree before, but I can tell you this, watching her has changed me. I'm ashamed of the times I've let shyness or uncertainty keep me from doing something I know I should do. I'm mortified of the times I've held back due to fear when that sweet woman faced abject terror every day, did battle with her demons, and never held back. She saw what had to be done and she did it. If you ask her, she would laugh at a description of her as courageous, but that's true courage, being afraid and forging ahead anyway. 

That's what faith is, too. She understood Who would get her through her trial and she understood how to get His strength. She never stopped prayed, and her Lord never let her down. The challenge for the rest of is to rise to this sweet lady's level. Face our fears, cling to our Savior, and keep going.