Recently, I had something scary happen to me. I was on vacation and had just enjoyed a nice campfire. I decided to get cleaned up and call it a day, so I went inside and started shaving. Suddenly, I realized that I couldn’t feel the right side of my face. Instantly, the entire right side of my face was puffy and completely paralyzed. It happened so quickly that I thought I must be allergic or must have been bit by something. I decided to take a couple Benadryl, an Ibuprofen and get some sleep. When I woke up the next morning with the same condition, I started to worry. When you ‘google’ my symptoms (facial paralysis, swelling, inability to taste, etc.) the results are not good. The number one result is STROKE. I packed and hurried home and went straight to the ER. I discovered that when you mention “paralysis” at the front desk, there is ZERO wait time! They whisked me back to a bed, hooked me up to a bunch of machines, and the ER docs were waiting for me at my bedside. Thankfully, I was quickly diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. This is horrible in itself, but much better than a stroke!!

Bell’s Palsy is a demoralizing affliction.  It is easily observable. Simple tasks like smiling, eating, forming words, whistling, drinking, kissing, facial expressions, etc. were either impossible or extremely difficult.

I am learning a lot through my ordeal. This is the closest thing I’ve had to a “disability”.

1. True friends. I found out that my “best friends” were quick to call me and pray for me.  True friends look you in the eye; even when one eye doesn’t work so well. Some ‘casual’ acquaintences would avoid me or stop talking to me altogether. There were times I wanted to remind people, “I’m still here.” “I’m still the same guy.” “You don’t have to treat me different just because I look different.”

2. Authentic Leadership. I was most impressed with the fact that everyone on CCV’s Teaching Team took the time to personally call me and tell me they were praying for me.  They didn’t have to do that.  They got an “all-staff” email they could have simply replied to. Yet, these men stopped and took the time to call me the week following my diagnosis to show their concern and support.  Don Wilson, Todd Clark, Mark Moore and Ashley Wooldridge are the REAL DEAL.  These leaders WALK the TALK and I’m proud to serve with them. I’ll follow leaders like that anywhere.

3. Priorities.  This was a wake-up call for me.  I put a lot of confidence in my ‘outside’ appearance and physical ability. Especially because my job includes a lot of video and ON SCREEN appearance. I was thinking, “Am I going to have to find a different way to serve God?”  God is teaching me a lesson to put my faith and trust in ETERNAL, not EARTHLY things.  Everything on earth can change so quickly, but our confidence needs to come from God, who is unchanged.

4. Humility.  I am learning to treat others with respect. This has really heightened my awareness of how I treat others.  Do I avoid those who are afflicted physically, emotionally, spiritually?  How do I treat ALL of God’s children?  Am I congregating with only ‘perfect’ people?

5. Positivity. Most people have been upbeat or positive when sharing their stories of how they had Bell’s & it eventually went away. However, I was kind of surprised to hear all the “doom and gloom” accounts.  Well-meaning folks would come and tell me that their cousin or uncle or so-and-so had Bell’s Palsy when they were younger and it NEVER WENT AWAY.  One guy I encountered showed me that his face was still paralyzed 15 years after his ordeal!  I prefer to have the stories of victory and/or perseverance when I’m in the middle of my struggle.

My symptoms continue to improve and I expect to make a full recovery, but I am convinced that God allowed this to happen for a reason.  It’s been said that “Leaders are Learners”, and I’m doing my best to learn and grow from this experience. I hope you can too.

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