I was determined to do one fun outing over spring break. It had been a rough couple weeks: an epic stomach virus for my oldest then a flooded laundry room. Seriously. I can’t make this stuff up! Most of spring break was spent with ten industrial fans and two dehumidifiers running. Suffice to say my house was LOUD (because three children had to talk OVER said fans)! My extroverted heart needed to break out of the confines of my house. With the help of my sweet Mumsie (that’s what we call my mom), I loaded up the kids for a fun morning checking out the “Road to the Races” Cars 3 preview event.
I was ready to have some fun with my kids. What I didn’t expect was to find myself with tears falling down my cheeks as I came face-to-face with the truth of our new normal.
We took pictures with the Cars, raced in the pit crew challenge, then waited in line for the exclusive sneak peek at the movie. We marveled at the semitrailer-turned-theatre as we took our seats. The lights dimmed, and the screen came to life with color. I honestly wasn’t sure how I felt about the movie from the teaser that had come out. Lightning McQueen finds himself unable to race like he used to. He has a deficit, but as the trailer continues, his team challenges him to race smarter, and then Doc Hudson’s words pierced right to my heart:
“You won’t be the racecar you once were. You can’t turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again.”
The tears pooled in my eyes and spilled over onto my cheeks. This is our new normal. This is where we are. We are learning to accept our deficit and live smarter. We have to work smarter, play smarter and plan smarter. Our family won’t ever be what we once were. It sounds defeatist, but it’s honestly a freeing truth. We don’t need to strive for what we used to have. We probably won’t be able to go at the pace we used to: full calendars, little margin. But, we can wind the clock up again. We can start anew.
Kris had his 3-month follow-ups this week, and we heard encouraging words from his doctor: “You’re not far off from where you need to be.” He made another adjustment to the medication and ordered more blood work. When Kris asked about his still depleted energy, his doctor responded with a truth I think we all need to hear:
“Your body used to do what it’s supposed to on its own, but perfect is now unattainable. It’s something you just need to live with. You can’t expect perfect anymore. Be patient with yourself. Better is better.”
Better is better.
You may never have a medical condition that forces you into accepting this reality, but the truth is we weren’t designed for perfection. It’s unattainable, because we were all created with weakness. My weakness is different than your weakness. My strength is different than your strength. We have to stop allowing ourselves to become paralyzed and frustrated by our lack of perfection and instead find rest in knowing where our strength comes from.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Kris and I have continually returned to this passage in 2 Corinthians. We’ve even wondered if Paul’s “thorn in his side” could have been Crohn’s disease. We can pray every day asking God to take Kris’ disease away, and I believe God could. But I don’t think He will. Not right now anyway. Because Paul learned what we are learning: to rejoice in our hardships. God continues to use this journey for both of us. He’s refining, pruning and growing us in ways we wouldn’t if we weren’t walking this path. Is it hard? Yes. Is it painful? Some days – literally and figuratively. Is it the plan we had? Nope.
The Greek word Paul uses for “content” (or “delight” in some versions) means “to be well pleased with, take pleasure in.” It’s the same word used when God said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Follow me here just a minute, because I think there’s debate over this whole “rejoicing in our sufferings” idea. Some will say that rejoicing doesn’t mean do a happy dance and a jig over the hard stuff of life. But honestly, I kinda feel like that’s what Paul is actually saying here. He’s saying that he takes pleasure in weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties. Paul says he is pleased with trouble, because that’s where his strength lies: in his weakness. It’s countercultural. It’s not natural to respond that way. The only way we can respond with delight and pleasure is in God’s strength.
Therefore, Kris and I continue to ask how instead of why. We make decisions day by day, meal by meal, activity by activity. Pausing when we need a break. Stepping forward into smarter living. Not looking back yearning for the “perfection” we once lived, but leaning into God’s strength and grace to live each day better – physically, mentally and spiritually. Because better is better.