Tuesday, January 7, 2014
My daughter is deaf. She got her hearing aids last week, and I tried so hard not to get my hopes up, but you know what they say about hope and its feathers and all that. The darn thing just took right off up into the sky... And so when we found that her hearing really is as bad as they thought, that the hearing aids don't seem to be doing much (though they still might in time... but unlikely), my hope's little wings burst into flames and down it fell. It got me thinking about what is disappointing about this situation. Yes, she can't hear and that's tricky in a hearing world. She might get implants to help her but whether she does or not, she's still in a difficult situation but one that is totally doable. What's really eating at me is that she doesn't measure up.
The perfect baby smiles responsively by so many weeks, rolls over this way and that way, reaches for toys, put things in her mouth, sits up, crawls, cruises, walks, says this and that in this way and that way and look, how perfect. "Turns to mom's voice." Uhhh... "Startles at loud sounds." Uhh... No. None of these. My daughter isn't perfect. She has missed some of these deadlines and will likely miss more. She's on a sort of side road, measuring along at her little pace but just a little behind -- behind on the curve, behind on the milestones, always just not. quite. there. Where she's *supposed* to be. And no one's concerned. No one's saying, "Mom! Mayday! We've got a serious problem here!" But no one has to. The standard is out there, hanging in front of me. I can't not see it.
And I understand. I know why they push it and ask me so many questions at her check ups and keep checking in. The earlier delays are identified, the easier they are to address. The earlier intervention begins, the better the outcome for the child. And I welcome the help and the intervention. I want it for my daughter. But all the questions and the standards and picture perfects throw me off. They make me forget what is truly important, what standard truly matters.
My daughter isn't the only one out there. We all have our pretty perfect standards of who we should be. The perfect stay-at-home-mom prepares three meals a day for her family complete with nutritional snacks, all while maintaining a picture perfect home and conforming to society's standards of cleanliness. (She might even wear makeup. Gasp!) The perfect husband and father works hard every day and comes home full of energy to love his wife and play a round of catch with his son and have a tea party with his daughter who paints his finger nails. He does bath time and story time and bed time and has the energy to do it all again the next day. The perfect professional shows up to work on time every day, logs extra hours but not too many as to rack up overtime, meets every deadline and engages in every meeting, and certainly never, ever gets bored or browses Facebook on the office computer.
We have these standards and we stare them in the face every day. We look up at them sort of wistfully as they hang above us, blinding us with their bright impossibility. We know we'll never be that perfect person. But we keep on staring. Sometimes we even take our dirty shirt sleeve and buff that shining perfection, just to make it shine a little brighter. We imagine that someone somewhere out there is this person, and our little feathered hope inside us thinks we could maybe be that too. And when we're not? When we miss the milestones? Skip dinner? Just want to zone out? We feel it. It's like falling, stumbling off the step. Skinned knee, we curse our clumsiness. We just can't get it right.
I have the power to doom my daughter. I have the power to sit her in front of the blindingly bright standard and point out all the ways she falls short, stumbles. I have the power to hold her to this and push on all her soft spots, all the places she doesn't measure up. I might even do this without realizing it. It's so ingrained that I only see it in my disappointment. Why am I disappointed? Why do I even care?
I don't want to doom her, any more than I want to doom myself. I don't want to hold her up to this impossible standard and frighten her with all the ways she fails, any more than I want to spend my life watching myself fall. And I don't have to. The world's bright shining standard is the wrong light. It looks like light at first, like promise, like it can help. But as it blinds, we find that the only promise with it is darkness. The darkness of doubt and discouragement and a wandering way. Thirst. Blindess. Emptiness.
When I think about what I want for my daughter, there is only one thing: for her to know Jesus. I don't care if she ever reads. I don't care if she ever hears my voice. I don't care if she ever even knows I exist, as long as she knows Jesus. I don't care if she sings an opera, only that she sings the beautiful promise of Christ. I don't care if meets all her learning objectives, only that she meets the Savior. I don't care if she shines as a star student, only that she shines the light of Jesus.
She can do this deaf. She can do this without ever saying a word. She can do this with successful cochlear implants and a Summa Cum Laude from Harvard. She can do this spinning on her toes in a tutu on the stage of the Kennedy Center, the lights flicking off her sequins, her hair pulled impossibly tight. She can do this sitting next to me at the dining room table, still living with us as an adult. The world's standard says she will either soar or fall. She will either make it or she won't. She will either be... or she won't be (which missing the mark is often seen as).
But the standard of Jesus offers promise. It says that all those who come to Him weak, all those that know their shortcomings and instead of running from them, run to Him, all those will be healed, will never thirst, will be made whole. Not by earthly standards (though some very blessed people found themselves healed by the hands of Christ and miracles still come today). She will be made whole not by the "fixing" but by the "finishing". The finishing of her work... by Jesus. When she stands next to Christ, knowing Him, trusting Him, proclaiming Him, He becomes her perfection. She gets to smash the glittering, blinding standard of worldly perfection with the unshakeable force of the Cross. And the light that comes from her, that can come from you, from me, isn't a reflection of the blinding impossible but instead a bursting out from within of the light of Peace, Truth, Grace, Love. We shine, not because we have been buffed to perfection, but because we are Loved by Perfection.
It is so hard to shake the world. It wants to jump on your back and cling for dear life and you have to fight it off, hard. But the freedom that comes with letting the world go, letting the standards of the "perfect" life die around you and expose themselves for the lie they are, that freedom is found only in the cross of Christ, the death that created life. And the standard we fix our eyes on is not the one that will doom us, but the one that will free us and truly let us soar, lifting us up on wings that will never fail, will never burn up, will carry us wherever we need to go.