Struggles and triumphs

Take 20 minutes and watch this short film. Ok, you don't have 20 minutes--neither do I. So take five minutes. I pretty much guarantee that you'll eventually find the 20 minutes, even if you weren't intending to. It's that, that good.

The Stewardship Committee at our parish hosted a healing service/potluck event and showed this film. Unfortunately for them, they also asked me to give a short reflection after playing it, on how I related to it in my own life. You'll see, once you watch it, how hard of an act it is to follow. My speech is below.
"The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph."

That's what the handsome Mr. Mendez (Bella's Eduardo Verastegui) says to our hero, Will (Nick Vujicic) in the Butterfly Circus.

I'm not sure if it's possible to feel morose or depressed after watching what we just saw. Here, we have a disabled man--or, "A man, if you can call him that," as the cruel sideshow leader says. Will, born without arms or legs, overcomes everything in his life to join the illustrious Butterfly Circus--not as a sideshow freak, but as one of its stars.

To me, this movie has a clear message.

We are not defined by our handicaps, or our wounds, even though we all definitely have them.

We are not defined by our various disabilities, our limitations.

We're not even defined by the hurts we carry or by the mistakes we've made.

Rather, we are defined by what we make of those hurts, those handicaps, those difficulties.

When we dwell on what has hurt us, on what has befallen us, on what has made our lives more difficult, we lose the grace that was ours to claim by right of enduring those hurts, those difficulties.

A little while after my husband and I were married, we were blessed by conceiving fairly quickly. Our joy, though, was turned to utter grief just a few months later, when we lost our first baby through miscarriage.

I could talk about how hard I cried. I could talk about the pain--my intense physical pain through the miscarriage itself, and our shared, intense emotional pain. I could talk about what it's like to know that someone existed, but that someone was taken away from us before we ever got a chance to meet him.

But. That's not honoring the little soul God blessed us with, even for that short period of time. Living with the joy of having fostered that little baby even for a few brief months is so much better than living with the sorrow and the questions--questions like, did I cause the miscarriage. Could I have done something differently. And why, please Lord why, did we lose him.

At the end of the Butterfly Circus, Will finds the strength (physical, and emotional), to see himself no longer as a sideshow freak, but as a man who has overcome the physical handicap of his disability, and the emotional handicap of believing that "God has turned his back" on him. He goes on to inspire the whole audience, especially that little boy on crutches, who embraces him so tenderly.

He inspires the audience with awe and disbelief, not at his deformity, but at his bravery and courage despite that deformity.

How often do we inspire our friends and acquaintances with how well we deal with our pain and hurt, instead of how crippled we are by them? Certainly, there is a time for our grief, a time for dealing with our pain, a time for working through it. For me, there was a time when I couldn't even mention losing our baby without welling up. It was an unspeakable grief.

But now, writing and talking about it more often, I hope to make it my story of hope, not my story of pain. It's my story of healing, not my story of unending anguish.

"The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph."

With each day that we live, let all of us (especially me), try to turn our struggles into triumphs, and in doing so, give the glory to the Lord for healing us--and for helping us accept his healing grace and love.


Carl takes Tim attacker to task

One of the best things thus far in 2010 in opinion writing? Traditionally liberal columnists upbraiding their fanatical, militant pro-abortion associates for assaulting both CBS and Tim Tebow's yet-to-be-seen Super Bowl ad.

(I could add that Focus on the Family to that list, but they've been assaulted for so long now, it's hardly considered news.)

Here's one more link in the chain of great columns on this topic, though it's penned by the always entertaining, always insightful and always thoroughly Catholic Carl Olson--perhaps the antithesis of a traditionally liberal columnist, but it will still rank as one of my favorites. He takes on ESPN's Tim Keown. Here's an excerpt:

"So congrats to ESPN columnist Tim Keown, who not only disses Tim Tebow for having the gall to appear in a pro-life television commercial (that may or may not air during the Super Bowl), but manages to breathlessly imply that fundamentalist Protestants, home schoolers, Christians who believe in absolutes, and college-aged Christians are not only morons, but are out to—gulp, get this!—tell the world what they believe, which is the height of insensitive proselytism:

'This has nothing to do with Tim Tebow's beliefs, or his intentions, or his vision of himself as a missionary for Christ. However, it's worth saying: Tebow should be careful. For his own sake.'

Meaning...what? It's not entirely clear, since Keown is heavy with the vague insinuation and light with any persuasive argument. He apparently thinks that a twenty-something-year-old young man who holds to absolute beliefs about the sanctity of life must be a mindless pawn in the sinister hands of the diabolical Fundamentalist Right and its quacky pseudo-psychologist leader, Dr. Doom—er, Dobson..."

Read the rest here.


I'm still sitting by my phone

It wasn't all too long ago that Harry Reid, champion of the furrowed "I'm an unpleasant person who feels entitled to remake your health care plan" brow, was, as they say, on the horn.

Who was he calling? The Boss. To do what? Apologize.

Reid's comments, printed in the pages of Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's 2009 book, Game Change, were more than fairly cringe-worthy, and on the topic of Obama's race and skin color, no less. Had the comments been made by a conservative or Republican (let's not assume one means the other), the name "Harry Reid" would be synonamous with "Deep-Sixed to Political Mordor." But that's another post altogether.

It also wasn't too long ago that the phones of Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were ringing steadily to announce apologies from wayward Caucasians, who had stumbled (or fallen flat-faced) on somewhat racist or blatently racist remarks. A tirade by Michael Richards at an L.A. comedy club had this former Seinfeld star begging forgiveness from the two columns of African American symbolism.

My point here: American custom, at least in the last 50 years, is for offending members of pop-culture and politcal fame to give token calls to these black leaders, imploring their forgiveness. Ok.

Last week I read that Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, had used an unsavory term to refer to a commercial TV strategy of a liberal activist group.

Now. We know I'm gangbusters over anyone, anyone using the term retarded to refer, in a denigrating way, to a person, thing, act, idea... Yeah. You just don't do it. It's insulting. It's a mockery of disabled personhood. I've heard people defend their use of the word by saying, when challenged, "Oh, well, I didn't mean it, like referring to a type of person."

Oh no? Well, next time I think something's a bad idea, I'm going to say, "That is so like a stupid _____ (race here) woman." We'll see how far that gets me. Probably as far as Al Sharpton's desk line.

But I digress. The only reason, I contend, that anyone is even talking about Emanuel's comment today is that Sarah Palin, torchbearer for loved ones of the disabled, wrote a Facebook note about this incident.

A media burst, a solar flare of criticism and an every-where-you-look explosion of coverage.

And so, what happens? The phone call. Not to Obama, not the Sharptons or the Jacksons.

Nope. Tim Shriver at the Special Olympics. Yawn.

Why does this bug me? Two reasons. First, Shriver is a safe call. He's not one to storm the weekend media shows, demanding justice and a public apology for the disabled. He's a good man, but he's just not that person. Second, Emanuel's own boss set the precedent for this. Anyone for a little presidential bowling?

What would really show remorse (something I'm not betting Emanuel's got in him for this) is a call to someone else. Someone maybe not disabled, but very, very close to the disabled. Someone who's been, shall we say, a pit bull about this cause.

Call Palin. Calling her means that in a way, you call me. You call my mother. You call my sisters and my father. Calling her means you've apologized to someone as close to the special needs community as Jesse Jackson is to the African American population.

I'm still waiting for the phone to ring.