Letters to Tom — Symptoms

Dear Tom:

Your Sufi wisdom caused me to engage in a reflection on my time before surgery. You wrote that we should all take the opportunity to consciously sweep away from our heart anything that feel superficial or affected, anything that we have taken on to please others.

One of the symptoms of my disease prior to surgery was the inability to focus and the tendency to tune out of conversations—a general dullness. Suzy noticed it and so did a few of my friends, but I was oblivious. The signs that something was wrong were right in front of my face, but I couldn’t see them. I was spiraling downward and some things should have set off alarm bells.

Furthermore, what should have got this mule’s attention was not what one might think. They were not the numbers assigned to my blood work, loss of appetite, fever, or exhaustion — medical symptoms I cannot diagnose. Instead, the signs I should have recognized were changes in how I was living my life. I am an avid reader, but I stopped reading. I might finish five pages before I put a book down, while before I inhaled whole chapters. I developed daily routines and if anything interfered, it caused me great consternation as opposed to going with the flow. I lost interest in sports. Something was wrong, a disease was slowly taking over, yet I went about going to work and coming home as if no change was occurring.

I have thought about this a lot. How often do we fail to heed the signs that something is wrong in our life. We stay in a dead end job, and ignore the signs of boredom and irritability at home. Stress becomes so much a part of our life, that we fail to see that it is eroding our health and our relationships. One of our children becomes isolated and is unusually unhappy, but we ignore the warning signals until the child turns to drugs or worse.

Everyday, we are given new opportunities to use our sense of sight. We need not close our eyes. The person in the mirror needs our compassion and concern. It is always easier to clean someone else’s room—or tell them how to clean it—than to deal with our own. Jesus talks about taking the log out of our own eye before we try to remove the splinter from someone else’s. He is talking about cleaning our own house first.

We need to look squarely at the conditions, situations, and relationships in our life. They are symptoms of our spiritual health. We cannot afford to ignore our symptoms. If the symptoms indicate we are unhealthy we must be treated before illness takes root, grows, and strangles our soul. Treatment may require surgery and pain, but the return to spiritual health is worth it.

Your friend,


About the author

Webb Hubbell is the former Associate Attorney General of The United States. His novels, When Men Betray, Ginger Snaps, A Game of Inches, The Eighteenth Green, and The East End are published by Beaufort Books and are available online or at your local bookstore. When Men Betray won one of the IndieFab awards for best novel in 2014. Ginger Snaps and The Eighteenth Green won the IPPY Awards Gold Medal for best suspense/thriller. His latest, “Light of Day” will be on the bookstands soon.

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