We walked into the office together and Max plunked down in his usual chair. Max couldn’t wait to get through the “talking part” of the doctor’s appointment so that he could play with my iPhone. I introduced the doctor to Kacey who had joined us to help with Max during the appointment. Kacey is 23 years old, and a gifted teacher. And let’s just say that if Kacey had been born in another era, you would have seen Michelangelo running behind her, lugging a 4 ton block of marble, begging her to stop and pose. We all exchanged pleasantries, as much as four of us sitting in an office the size of an elevator is pleasant. And then Dr. T. asked Kacey how often she helps with Max.
Kacey leaned into the table. Everything about her smile at that moment told me that if a wing could be built off the side of our house, she would live in it. That if Max were to join the circus, she would bunk with the elephants. Or, at least help him with the trapeze. Kacey has come to love Max; her beauty runs deep. She looked at the doctor and said, “I try to work with Max as much as possible, every day if I can.”
Dr. T. dropped his eyebrows and leaned away from Kacey. He sat back in his chair as if he’d been thrown against it. And then it happened. It was a casual little comment that hit like a slap across all three of our faces.
The doctor looked right at Kacey and smirked, “Don’t you want a life?”
I gasped and turned toward Kacey, whose statuesque shoulders had slightly drooped. I wanted to reach over to her and brush off the soot and grime, to bleach everything back to white again. I turned to Max, who fortunately had my iPhone up to his ear jammin’ to Cindi Lauper’s “Girls just wanna have fun.” Had he heard it? Had he heard that helping to care for someone else, care for him, wasn’t a life?
I looked back at the doctor, my words sputtering, “This is life. This is a beautiful life.”
The doctor’s words stung my heart and bounced around in my mind for weeks without a place to land. Have we believed the lie that our highest aim in life is to serve “self” rather than others? Do we believe that to have life we must have glamour or ease or popularity? That’s the Hollywood myth, straight from the homeland of the miserable. And it’s the lie that causes us to question every minute of caring for an individual with a disability.
I’ve bought that lie many times when I’m too tired to see, when I’ve forgotten the gifts and beauty, when I demand there should be more of “me.”
When I believe the world instead of listening for God.
It’s a radical idea that the more we give away, and the more we lose ourselves by serving others, the richer we become. But God offers something the world cannot: an abundant life. Jesus Christ came to this world so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. And He offers His abundance to every life, the young and old, the weak and strong, the tired mom who can’t navigate the world without an extra pair of hands. He even offers it to the highly educated physician who still has much to learn. Jesus beckons us to take our eyes off self, and trust in Him.
I know…it’s so completely counterintuitive. This stuff will never make People Magazine.
Perhaps Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, put it best. He spoke at a dinner this past Saturday at an event hosted by the Colson Center. Cardinal Dolan shared the Law of the Gift, originally penned by Pope John Paul II. “We are at our best,” the Cardinal began, “when we act most in concert with what our maker intends, when we give away in love to another what we most prize within ourselves.”
Do I still dream of a day at the spa? No. I dream of a month at the spa. But I know it’s not where I will find true beauty, where I will find an abundant life. God’s abundance, his grace and beauty and presence and provision, is found in the everyday, even in the challenges and exhaustion and isolation. I find it when I can pry my eyes of self and trust in Him. And I see it in a 23 year old, whose heart seeks to serve another.
It’s a beauty that even Michelangelo couldn’t have captured.