The Life Less Traveled
August 31, 2011When my wife, Christy, was pregnant with our first daughter, we did the breathing classes where they teach dads how completely useless they're going to be during the delivery process. Remind your wife to breath. Yeah, that's helpful. It's like giving a toddler a spoon to go stir their Play-Doh so they can "help" you cook dinner.
At the end of the class, they offered a tour of the hospital to get parents oriented before the big day. Christy suggested we go, but I would have none of it.
"Honey," I said, "I'm a minister. I've visited a ton of people there. You don't need a tour. You have me!"
Finally, I could add value to this whole delivery process. It's not like I'm a stunt man. I don't often get to use my professional expertise to show off to my wife, so I was going to milk this for all it was worth.
"You're sure you know where to go?" she asked.
"The maternity ward?"
"Yes! Just leave it to me. I know what I'm doing."
Fast forward several weeks to Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving. Christy woke me up at midnight, and we started timing contractions. I called the doctor. It was go time.
We made it to the hospital by 1:30 a.m. and went in through the emergency room entrance. A nurse asked if we needed someone to take us to the delivery unit.
I chuckled to myself. It was like asking Columbus if he needed someone to help him find America. Apparently they didn't know who they were dealing with here.
"No, thanks," I said. "I can handle it."
To be fair, getting to the maternity ward wasn't complicated. We just had to take a couple of turns, go down the long hallway, jump on the elevator and take it to the second floor. No problem, right? Any monkey could have taken her there.
But I'm not just any monkey.
As soon as we hopped on the elevator, I had the sense that something was wrong. I thought that the maternity ward was actually marked on the panel of buttons, but I saw nothing other than plain, old numbers. Hmm, weird.
I punched the second floor button, and as the elevator began to climb, so did the sick feeling in my gut. I knew when those doors opened I would not be looking at the maternity ward. Christy grimaced. Another contraction. This would not end well for me.
When the door opened, I led Christy out and went straight to the nurse's station. I swallowed hard.
"Can you tell us how to get the maternity ward?" I whispered.
"Maternity ward?" the nurse said. "Son, you're in the wrong tower."
As we stepped back into the elevator, I kept thinking of an ancient proverb that says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but, in the end, it leads to death." I knew that when those sliding doors closed, my wife was going to kill me. There's nothing like a woman in labor, seething with rage, to help you appreciate how truly short your life may be.
Miraculously, I survived that night and did not repeat the same mistake when our second daughter was born, but the whole story reminds me of how prone I am to think that I can handle everything in life on my own. Why is it so hard to admit we need help or that we don't know everything or that sometimes we're just flat out wrong?
I've seen guys leave their families for another woman because they think they have it all figured out, only to end up miserable and broken a few months later. I've watched people who thought they had their addiction under control have the whole thing blow up in their face and ruin their life. I've known smart people, really smart people, who have made the most foolish choices simply because they were too stubborn to listen to godly advice.
Pride's a funny thing. Sometimes it starts because we don't want to look weak or stupid or incompetent, yet that's exactly where we end up because we won't ask for help or listen to an opinion other than our own.
I've been praying lately for God to teach me to be teachable, to remind me that I'm not nearly as wise as I think I am and to give even my sharpest critics a fair hearing. At the end of the day, my ego will take a lot less bruising by listening to advice along the way rather than having to face the consequences of totally heading in the wrong direction on my own.
Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more from Byerly, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.