For several years, family, friends and coworkers made attempt after attempt to warn that I needed to “slow down.” During this time period, I would hear phrases such as “too many irons in the fire” and “burning the candle at both ends.” My usual response was “It’s ok. I am fine. I love what I am doing.”
Looking back, I now know that one-third of my response was correct. I did, and to this day, still love serving others. Despite periods of fatigue and frustration through different areas of serving, something inside would not allow me to see the big picture. A love of service began at a young age and then continued through a long military career. Once the uniform came off for the last time, part-time volunteerism became a full-time gig. Obviously, with a full-time job, volunteering 30 or 40 hours per week with different organizations was not the intent. The inability to say “no” was costing me precious time with my wife and girls, an unintentional byproduct of having a passion for serving others. I absolutely do not regret any time spent volunteering. The lesson I have learned is sacrificing my family on the altar of servanthood is the wrong answer. A lesson I learned as I grew in my walk with the Lord. Serving is important. The Bible teaches us that even Jesus came to serve and not to be served. Equally as important is setting boundaries.
Early in 2015, the decision was made to wrap up existing commitments and to heed the years-earlier warning to “slow down.” As it turned out, that decision came a little too late and carried a consequence I wasn’t prepared for.
Somewhere around 10 p.m. on June 11, 2015, I was lying down and began feeling what can be best described as a massive muscle strain in my chest. This feeling continued throughout the night and I only slept for maybe two hours. The morning of June 12 included a massive headache and that muscle strain becoming more uncomfortable, and then painful.
After work that day, I sat on the edge of the bed and my wife noticed my face was bright red and suggested we check my blood pressure. Keeping my head down because of the headache, I didn’t look at the machine to see my numbers. I distinctly remember Beth calmly telling the girls “…get your shoes on. We need to take daddy to the hospital.” My blood pressure was 210/190. Once at Brownwood Regional Medical Center, where I received exceptional, loving care, I heard Dr. Worthington tell my wife I was having a heart attack and I would be prepped to be care flighted to Abilene Regional.
Because of the medication pumped into me on the helicopter and at BRMC, the next several hours are a blur. I suffered a heart attack at 39 years old. I survived because of God-answered prayers and the staff at two hospitals. Who was to blame for the heart attack? Me. And only me. I made decisions, even if the intent was positive, that affected me and those who love me. By the grace of God, I was released from the hospital on my 40th birthday. That day, with my wife by my side, the cardiologist reminded me that I needed to slow down. Because of growth, and now experience, I can boldly say that it is OK to say “no” and to establish boundaries. Serving is noble and benefits others, and as I continue to serve, I understand what is truly important now.