Planted in the middle of last week was a day in which things just would not work.
I had switched my day off around at the last minute because an appointment was available at the Children’s audiology clinic, and said appointment was the next thing on our to-do list for The Kid. Since I prefer to write my plans in stone, rather than the pencil grace asks of me, I was already a little shaken at this sudden turn of events. And, like a villain on Smallville or something, I seemed to bring a weird brand of chaos with me wherever I went: after soaping my hands up in the bathroom at TK’s daycare, I placed them under a non-working faucet. The wireless at Barnes and Noble failed me. My blessed bathtub’s drain plug whimpered and died. Then, I went to retrieve TK for his appointment and we sat in fifteen minutes of traffic due to a broken traffic light at a major intersection. We crossed this hurdle to arrive in a spot-free parking deck, the same one that usually saves a place for me right by the entrance.
You will not be shocked to hear that I didn’t handle it all very well.
But I guess one of the benefits of TK not speaking yet is that he can’t repeat the off-color remarks I make, and once we passed through the automatic doors of the clinic, I remembered that prayer I’ve been meaning to pray lately at times like this, times when nothing seems to be working right: thank you. It’s counter-intuitive to be sure, especially to a brain like mine that would rather change course to avoid an obstacle rather than tritely “turn it into an opportunity” or “turn that frown upside down”–but it’s so much more than that. It’s setting up shop right beside the chaos and taking a moment to look up, hands raised, in faith. The battle within raged, over expressing gratitude always vs. willing the elevator doors to open. When they did, TK’s neurosurgeon stepped off. And just like that, the traffic and the deck and the lateness converged in a moment that allowed me to ask him some follow-up questions that arose from our visit two days prior.
The clinic took us in, all twenty-minutes-behind and pit-sweat and crying-baby, and TK and I were soon ensconced in a sound-proof booth with images from Finding Nemo and short bursts of sound. We looked like we were about to cut a demo. He passed the test with one ear; we have to go back to retest the other in a few weeks. Given the day, that sounded about right.
And today, we celebrate (?) our triumphant return to physical therapy. As the visits line up and TK’s frustration with the clinical setting reaches a fever pitch, I often yearn for a world filled with soft surfaces and smooth edges, for clear skies and plans that don’t shift. Then TK grabs my finger, or The Husband’s, and shuffles around the yard with a mixture of determination and glee on his face, and I know that the victories that come after apparent defeat, like the first blooms after a deep winter, are the most sweetly felt. And that the thank you that follows is never more sincere.
Because I know the facile belief of immaturity, the Sunday-school felt-lined Jesus who looks like a nice man; I know when church was a building and I could hide there from the world and depend on my good behavior to save me. But now? Now I know the brand of belief that survives deserts of apparent separation and doubt; I know the man who welcomed children on his knee and turned over tables in passion; I know that the church (much like soylent green) is people–and broken, wounded people at that. I know what you’re afraid of because I’m afraid of it too: of failing, of being ridiculed or despised or at the very least disapproved of, of looking like an idiot, of being let down. I know that some friendships last and some don’t and the girl who writes pinterest-y in an email because she knows that we will both laugh the same way at it is the one I want beside me, because neither of us has any interest in dressing things up to be pretty when they can be real. I know that this world can be terrifying, but I also know that it can’t be written off because he doesn’t write it off. And he doesn’t write me off, either. So whatever the worst thing is that could happen? Won’t. Because when I turn around and look at the story I’ve lived, at the mistakes I made and people I hurt and bridges I thought I burned in my misunderstanding of what it really means to believe–I see that nails and wood are stronger than I ever knew.
Will physical therapy work? Will speech therapy work? Is marriage work? Those answers matter so much less now as a tiny hand grabs mine, as your story and mine meet and are woven into a greater one, and as I see the stone-rolling, the real work, has already been done, and not by me–because that’s how grace works.