Friday, April 2, 2010


During the summer we take Ethan to the pool on base. They have a wonderful machine that has a chair attached to it that lowers Ethan gently into the water.

Ethan loves the water. He always has. The lift makes it possible for him to be able to do one of his favorite things and we thank God for it.

He'd rather be in the gulf or the bay or the bayou but without help, it's just not possible. Ethan's a good sport about settling for the pool.

I know how much Ethan enjoys the water because part of being able to get into the pool exposes him to getting attention. He hates that he has to use the lift. He hates that he needs help. He can't stand feeling like he's on display... having his weaknesses exposed.

But he also knows that's the way it is and, because he is so dang brave, he does it anyway.

Jim and Ethan have getting into the lift down to a choreographed routine. Jim parks Ethan's chair next to the lift. He lifts Ethan up to his feet while Ethan helps by pushing off the arm rests. They get their balance for a few seconds, while Ethan's legs are holding his weight. Jim scoots Ethan a few inches over to the chair attached to the lift. Ethan sits down, Jim buckles the little seat belt, Ethan unbuckles the little seat belt, and I push the button that lowers the chair into the water. It's all pretty discreet. The lifeguard sees us drive up and they get the lift from the patio, and position it along side the pool. No fanfare. No noise. You can understand why it is such a blessing.

Last summer we were at the pool and Jim was in the process of transferring Ethan to the lift. A man with his two children walked past us. As they did, the man began to stare. He stared and he stared. He was walking with his head going one way and his body going another. If there had been something in front of him, which I was wishing there had of been, the man would have fallen on his face.

I was standing beside Ethan and I took off my sunglasses to stare back. I was hoping that I could stare the man back into the land of decency.

But, it didn't work.

I moved in front of Ethan to block the man's view. Not because I was ashamed of Ethan or embarrassed by his disability. I was just trying to spare Ethan of the hurt and humiliation that staring can cause.

Jim and Ethan got into the pool and they started their routine. Ethan was on his stomach while Jim gently held him under his arms. They quickly got into their rhythm of going under water and coming up for air and then going back under. They went the length of the pool and turned around to do another lap.

I noticed the man was now in the water with his two children and he was still staring. Actually, gawking would describe it better.

I understand children staring. Mine did when they were young. Children are curious. They have no idea the added pain or embarrassment staring causes. But, this was a man. A grown man.

I asked God to give me permission to discreetly swim over next to him and suggest that he please take his eyes off my child. And, then to tell him if he didn't. . . I would poke them out.

I didn't get that permission.

Like I said, I understand why children stare.

When I was teaching pre-school, I had a beautiful little boy in my class that wore very large hearing aids. I'll call him J. I noticed after the first few weeks of school that the other children were shying away from J. I knew that it wasn't J they were shying away from but it was because of what made J different. The hearing aids. J was blessed with a wonderful mother. Her heart was broken by the severity of her child's hearing loss. She knew it made him vulnerable but she was determined for him to be the happy, healthy boy God created him to be. That's why she had enrolled him in preschool. We were sitting around the snack tables one day and I took a chance with the kids and I brought up J's hearing aids. I asked them what happened when you broke a bone in your arm or your leg. They all said the doctor has to put a cast on it. I asked them why some people had to wear glasses and they said to help people see. I told them J's ears were a little broken and the hearing aids helped him hear a little better. I then told them how cool I thought it was that someone had invented hearing aids to help people whose ears were broken. They all agreed and that was the end of that. Their questions were answered. J wasn't different anymore. He just needed something to help him hear better.

But like I said, the gawker wasn't a child.

Since God didn't give me the permission to threaten the man by poking his eyes out, I just had to deal with it.

Unfortunately, that hasn't been the only time we have run into insensitive, rude adults. I know sometimes people mean well. Like people that talk at volume 25 because they assume since Ethan can't walk he must not be able to hear. Go figure. Or that because he is in a wheelchair and doesn't talk loudly that he must be mentally handicapped so they talk to him with simple words. Using baby talk. I know their intentions aren't to hurt or embarrass but. . .

Ethan seems to handle most of it with his sense of humor and his compassionate heart. His momma not so much.

My first reaction is to protect my child. To keep him from any more pain than he has to experience. I want to stand between him and anything that would cause humiliation and embarrassment.

I do not want him to hurt.

I also want to defend Ethan.

I so wanted to go up to the man at the pool and tell him about my son's bravery. I wanted to tell him how he has never wanted to be the center of attention and here he is, allowing himself to be seen, to be vulnerable, so he can do one of the few things he can still do. I wanted to tell him about all the times he has wanted to stay home from parties, restaurants or weddings because he is in a wheelchair but he went anyway. He went because he wanted me and Jim to get to go. And, because he didn't want to disappoint anyone.

I wanted to tell him how Ethan has tried to protect the ones who sold him the drugs that hurt him because he doesn't blame anyone but himself. I wanted to tell him that my child never lets a day go by when he doesn't tell us he is sorry for his choices, even though we remind him when it came to forgiving him, we didn't think twice.

I wanted to tell him how my son deals with pain and discomfort yet hardly ever complains.

I wanted to tell that man that the person he is staring at has the biggest heart of anyone I know. That he forgives me when I'm tired and ill. He forgives me when I take something out on him that wasn't his fault. He forgives me when I sigh because he asks me to bring him something to drink or eat that he can't get up and get for himself. He forgives me without me even asking.

I wanted to tell that man that when Ethan was so weak he could hardly hold up his head , every night he would ask to watch The News Hour with Jim Lehrer so he could see the names of the soldiers that were lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ethan would watch the names and faces of the fallen soldiers roll down the screen, and he would whisper their ages. Way too many times he would look at me and say, "Mama, they were younger than me."

I wanted to tell that man that he needs to get on his knees every night and pray that his children have half the heart and courage that Ethan has.

Yeah, I wanted to tell that man. Still do.

I want to protect my child. I want to defend him. I want people to know who he is. I want people to know what he is.

As I sit here on the morning of the day we call Good Friday, I can't help but think about how the Father felt as Jesus was being mocked, taunted, beaten, and despised. I can't imagine the pain The Father felt to know His Son's heart, to know His Son's willingness and to see Him being rejected and spit upon. I can't imagine how He stood back and let the humiliation and torture continue.

I can't imagine The Father not stopping the voices screaming at His Son. I can't imagine The Father not stepping in when Jesus was struggling to carry the cross up the hill.

I can't imagine The Father not grabbing the hammers out of the hands of the ones that were driving the spikes into the Perfect Hands and Feet of His Child.

I can't imagine The Father watching the blood flow from His Son's brow as hands forced a make-believe crown of thorns into His head.

I really can't imagine what The Father was feeling when His perfect, precious Son asked the heart-breaking question, "Father, why have You forsaken Me?"

I've prayed to see the Father's heart. I've prayed to see the heart of Jesus as he stood in front of the people that He had created. The ones He came to save.

Sometimes I think the familiarity of this event and all the movies that I've watched that try to portray that time in history have hardened my heart. I want to feel it. I want to experience it. I want to get it down inside of me. Because I know if I could, that I would never be the same.

My heart just can't seem to wrap itself around that day and what took place. It can't wrap around the love and the sacrifice. My heart is human and what took place that day was not human, although Jesus was. What took place that day was divine.

It had to be.

It had to be the result of God's perfect, unfailing love.

When it comes to protecting Ethan's heart and when it comes to defending him, I would do anything, but there's not much I can do. I'm pretty much helpless. I can't go around slaying every rude, insensitive person we run into along the way. I can't make people see Ethan the way I know him to be.

If I could I would.

There's the difference.

He could.

He could have stopped the mock trial at once. He could have stopped it with just a thought. He probably could have stopped it without a thought.

The Father could have quieted every voice. He could have turned everyone in the crowd back into dust.

He could have shown them miracle after miracle. He could have proven that Jesus was the Messiah.

He could have had every angel in heaven to descend down to earth to comfort His Son. He could have so glorified His Son that everyone would have fallen on their faces to worship Him.

He could have stopped it all.

He could have.

But He didn't.

And He didn't because of me.

And He didn't because of you.

He knew His Son, and He knew that His Perfect Son would be our only hope. Our only hope from the death and sin that controlled us. He knew Jesus could be our only rescuer. Our only Redeemer. Our only Sacrifice. Our only Savior.

He knew that to give us what He created us to have, it had to be Jesus.

So He did nothing. When He could have, The Father did nothing.

And He did that nothing for me.

And He did that nothing for you.

"This is how God showed his love for us:
God sent his only son into the world
so we might live through him.
This is the kind of love we are talking about-
not that we once upon a time loved God,
but that he loved us
and sent his Son as a sacrifice
to clear away our sins and
the damage they've done to our relationship with God."
1John 4:9-10
the Message

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