We were at the gym one recent evening, finishing up a string of basketball games and working towards paying off our tab at the snack bar. (As an aside, if you aren’t in the habit of having a tab at the concession stand, don’t get started. It’s dangerous and fiscally irresponsible.)
I was sitting in the stands looking around the gym to track down my crew, when I noticed a girl in front of me trip while stepping off the bleachers. The girl fell to the ground and started crying. Her mother, who had been standing next to her, quickly bent down and kissed her daughter on the head.
The father walked over from where he had been and the two, the mother and father, spent a minute consoling their child before helping her get back on her feet.
There’s not much unusual about all this except the age of the daughter — she’s my age, a grown woman in her early 40s. Years ago, this sweet baby was born with a seizure disorder and intellectual disabilities that have affected her ability to talk and walk and communicate with others. She has been under her parents’ constant care since her birth and has outlived the doctors’ predictions.
What a beautiful moment to witness the love of these parents for their daughter, a grown woman who is still a small child. Their compassion and concern was overwhelming and there I sat in the bleachers taking in the beauty and holding back tears.
I don’t know why it should surprise me, who wouldn’t show such love to a child? Except the world tells us that these children are burdens, that children who aren’t “normal” take too much time or energy or that because they can’t live an ordinary existence their life has less value.
What I saw in that moment was the beautiful gift of life — of this life in particular. What this girl offered was love, the opportunity to love and the chance to be loved. She drew love out from her parents and from those standing nearby who also walked over to help.
We live in a world that celebrates outward strength and victory and anything less than that is an inconvenience. Babies diagnosed in utero can be dealt with accordingly. We are afraid of imperfections, afraid of suffering and struggle. We want to spare ourselves the hurt and hard work of life different from status quo.
I was thinking about all of this while also reflecting on the morning I was having, me with my own brood of “normal” children. It wasn’t an easy morning at all, dealing with one child’s strong will, working through another child’s struggle with numbers. There was an issue with someone hoping that ignoring a situation would make it go away (that doesn’t work with math, child) and the real struggle and strain of raising children.
It wasn’t easy. It was hard work.
That’s life, this journey we are on. It’s hard. And it’s easy to be afraid of the struggle, of dealing with difficult things. And I’m not trying to say that what I deal with in my life is the same (or on par) with the struggles of this family and their daughter and her needs.
But we all have struggles, and some people have struggles more obvious than others. We all have the path put before us by God and we ask him to show us how this path, this struggle, this moment — how he wants it to draw us closer to him, how what we are doing in this moment can glorify him.
In that moment in the gym, I saw the gift of love. I saw the offering of those parents, their yes to caring for their daughter, as their yes to Jesus.
And I’m inspired somehow, to take up crosses, the challenges of my own life, and try to return it as well. That’s all we can do, do what God asks of us, without fear or comparison. We love who God asks us to love, and we see the challenge as the way God is drawing us closer to him.
This originally appeared in The Southern Cross.