It’s a humbling experience to rely on others for your basic needs, especially for us go-getter personality types. This is the situation in which Laura Hewett now finds herself. She moved to Germany in 2013 with dreams and plans of how God would use her in this new land. Reality however, has turned out much different than she could have ever imagined. She shares her story with us today.
4word: Can you start by telling us how you were injured, and what life has been like since that time?
Laura: I've always been an independent person, and I'm in the middle of a several year long lesson from God on dependence. The lesson began when I moved to Germany on my own in August 2013. Learning to depend on God and others in a country where I didn't speak the language was just the start. In January this year, I went rock climbing at an indoor facility with friends and fell from the top of the rock wall. I broke two vertebrae near the bottom of my spine, and was rushed to the University Hospital in Basel for emergency surgery. Before the operation, my surgeon told me there was no guarantee I would ever walk again. After the operation, she told my friends I only had a one percent chance of walking again.
I was moved to a rehabilitation facility nearby after 10 days in the hospital. Here at REHAB Basel, I have occupational therapy and physical therapy every day to relearn how to use what muscle function I have and hopefully care for my body well enough to facilitate more healing and recovery. The doctors and therapists are confident I'll be able to live independently again, but I'm discovering a whole new world of humility in my current state of dependence. For 12 weeks, I needed to wear a corset that prevents me from twisting or bending my torso - the more comfortable and less smelly alternative to a huge body cast. With the corset, I'm unable to get in and out of bed on my own, shower on my own, or even go to the bathroom on my own. Early on, the words "humbled" and "humiliated" wrestled in my head, but I've chosen each morning to have an attitude of humility as I live in total dependence on the staff here who patiently serve me and teach me German.
4word: What have you learned about God through this? How have you had to let go and let Him work?
Laura: This question is particularly hilarious to me because I feel like for years God has drastically altered my plans while using my skills and passions to prepare me for whatever new thing he had in store. I spent six years working to become the next high school English teacher at the school where I graduated, and then God sent me to teach English and Bible across the Atlantic in Germany. Barely settled into what I realized was my dream job all along and with a taste of multicultural experience, I'm now transplanted to a multicultural hospital facility where the staff are constantly intrigued by my willingness to abandon my culture because "God told me to" and to smile about my circumstances because "God is taking care of me."
However, within that, a huge struggle I've had is how can I be a clear witness of Jesus when I don't speak the same language as the majority of the staff. Only half a dozen nurses are fluent in English, and I'm barely able to communicate my basic needs in German. A recent conversation with one of my best friends in America reminded me that I'm in a unique position to minister and encourage people around the world that I don't see face to face. Opportunities where I can share my story like this are huge blessings. They are a chance to celebrate God's work in my life and unite more people in Christ across the globe. Some friends here found a website where people can place a marker where they are praying for me. There are currently over 150 markers on five continents that don't even represent all the people I have been told are praying for me regularly.
I do my best to live each day as a light. I praise God that his light transcends language barriers, while also sharing with as many others the good works God is doing in my body so we can all join together to praise his mighty power and humbly petition as one church body that he continue to heal my physical body.
One of the clearest lessons I've learned about God through this is that despite my ever changing circumstances, He is constant.
4word: What verse(s) and truth have been the most encouraging to you during this time?
Laura: So many passages of Scripture have been encouraging to read, so it's hard to narrow it down. I can only get it down to four: Lamentations 3:22-24, Psalm 34:3, Isaiah 40:28-31, and 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
The passage in Lamentations has been my favorite since high school. The clear reminder of God's faithfulness written by someone who knew deep suffering first hand is so powerful. I've experienced a new kind of suffering, but I join in with Jeremiah clinging to truths that transcend my circumstances. I need hope to survive - let alone to thrive. This passage provides it in my darkest moments.
The NIV translates the first line of Psalm 34:3 as "Glorify the Lord with me," and that concept has been really important to me through this whole process. When I was in the ER, I got to talk to my dad before surgery and after telling him to tell my mom not to worry, I asked him to pray that God would be glorified. I remember being in a lot of pain but very clearly knowing that was the most important thing to tell my dad. Asking for prayer to walk again was an afterthought. Finding this verse the day after my operation was such a gift. I knew that it was a privilege to join in the chorus of the redeemed to magnify the name of the Lord. Before my operation, I was unsure how that would be possible, but God has graciously revealed more and more to me how he is making his name famous all over the world through this circumstance.
The first day I was allowed to sit in a wheelchair in the hospital, the staff left me alone with my Bible for a few minutes. After first reading Lamentations 3, I turned to Isaiah 40, knowing the last two verses were powerful encouragements of how the Lord gives strength to the weary. I was blown away by the context that I'd never paid close attention to. The chapter isn't primarily about us getting strength from the Lord, the chapter is primarily about how the Lord IS STRENGTH. It put God in the center of the story where he belongs. The passage at the end, including the verses about God as strength, as well as how he strengthens me, have been wonderfully encouraging as I remember I'm not the center of the story but I'm loved enough to be included.
Soon after I arrived in REHAB, I was listening to a sermon that referenced a passage in 2 Corinthians. I flipped to it and kept reading the rest of the book. I was struck by the personal application I found in 12:9-10. I highlighted the verses and kept reading. The facility's head doctor came in to visit with the other doctors while I was still reading. She asked me how I was feeling, what I was thinking about my situation. I picked up my Bible and pointed to what I'd just marked. "This," I said, "This is exactly what I'm feeling." I had to assure the staff that I wasn't resigned to my condition but rather that I was secure in the knowledge that God's grace IS sufficient, Christ's power IS made perfect in my weakness, and because of Christ, I AM strong in my weakness.
4word: Is there anything else that you would like to share?
Laura: If there's one takeaway people can have from my story, I'd like it to be that it's not "my" story. One of my best friends once told me that she was grateful "her subplot in God's story overlapped with my subplot." I love that analogy. I used to be terrified that my life was just a supporting role in someone else's life. Since then, I've come to realize what a gift it is to be a minor character in God's story.
If you find yourself in a situation that seems unfair or inconvenient, remember Laura's words. God's plan will not always be the one that we desire, so it is our job to switch gears when our life hits a "roadblock," letting God take control and guide us down our new path.
How is God at work in your life? Is he disrupting your plans to bring about something better?
To join Laura in her journey and stay updated on her condition and recovery, visit her blog.