One never knows when opportunity will knock. I’m reminded of the scene in Evan Almighty, when God explains to Evan’s wife that hardship is actually opportunity. When we ask God to make us more patient, He gives us an opportunity to practice our patience. He’s not testing it but allowing us to build it, one moment at a time.
Opportunity was just about to rap on our kitchen door…
I quickly piled the lunch dishes into the dishwasher, and I rushed my two boys to put on their shoes and jump into the car. We were late, trying to get out the door in time to meet my husband at the movie theater to see Toy Story 3. Ben was the first out the door, and he strolled his way to the Explorer. I put the last dish in the dishwasher when I heard his first scream. Sigh. I thought, He must have been stung by a bee. We’re gonna be late. It was a high pitch wail. Oooo, I think it might be a nasty hornet. And I expected Ben to walk through the door, but instead he gave out a whole series of screams, getting louder and louder.
I found him lying on the sidewalk. He tripped over the garden hose that crossed the walkway to reach the grape arbor. “Look at my knee! Look at my knee!” It didn’t look anything like a knee. I glanced at the car, then back at my kid, who, at 14 years, was already well over six-foot-three. There was only one way he was getting to an emergency room, and that was in an ambulance.
Doctors found no permanent damage—not yet. But they put him in an immobilizer, told me to pack his knee in ice and make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. After removing fluid, the surgeon told me that the swelling needs to go down before he can do anything else, if there is more damage to be repaired. It would take time, and lots of it.
It’s been three weeks now, and Ben has a hard time getting around. He’s been pretty much housebound, required to keep his leg in the immobilizer and elevated and iced. Our pool beckons him. The woods beckon him. His art studio beckons him. All out of his reach, located on a hill above our house. He’s getting antsy…and very, very frustrated.
Every morning, we begin the day with lots of hugs and reassurances. I don’t think I’ve hugged my biggest kid this much since he was super little. He’s grappling for reassurances, comfort, and a sense of purpose for this senseless accident. A few months ago, after reading The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman, I began to wonder about how much he needed my hugs. He’s so tall it’s almost impossible for me to surprise him with a squeeze or two. In fact, one day, just for kicks I put my arms around his waist, and he said, “What are you doing?” Then he put his arms around my waist and picked me off the floor. Let me tell you, it is a strange sensation when your “little loaf of bread” can hoist you off of sure footing. Right now, though, I’m learning that he still needs the motherly touch—just when I assumed he didn’t need me all that much anymore.
After making Ben his breakfast and getting him settled so he could work on the next edition of his comic book, Star Wars: The Elites, I decided to go for a short walk today. I put my rosary in my pocket and reached in and held the crucifix as I walked. I prayed, Lord, help me to help Ben today. Just today. Tell me what to do for him. Help me to give him comfort and to help him see that You made him exactly the way You want him to be. What do You want me to do? The answer came quickly: Teach him to pray, Kathleen. Teach him to pray.
Yes, indeed, teach him to pray. Over the years, I have been very diligent in teaching my children all the Catholic prayers—prayers of the rosary, mealtime, act of contrition, creed, and so on. And I’ve always hoped that they would not only know the words by heart but know the words in their hearts. We’ve said rote prayers together for years, but I usually withdrew for my own personal prayers in a quiet place for peaceful focus on our Lord. I also spent a great deal of time reflecting on our standard Catholic prayers and pondered over their concise wisdom. Now it is time for me to come out of my quiet place and help Ben find his. Perhaps this will be his time for seeing the wisdom, too.
Why are parents, like me, so reluctant to share this special prayer time with their children? For me, it’s such a unique and deep relationship with our Lord, it almost feels too personal to reveal this special routine to others. And let’s be honest: with children in the house, our quiet times are true treasures. Someone once told me that all too soon, I’ll have more than enough.
My favorite mystery on which to reflect is the Annunciation, something that St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, helped me to understand more fully. Mary not only gave one big Yes, she gave our Lord her Yes each and every day, every hour, every moment—little ones and big ones–even when it meant heartache and hardship. To this, I’d like to say “Yes, Lord, I am your handmaid.”
So here is my work for today: to teach my son how to pray from his heart, to ask our Lord to take his worries and carry them for him, to heal him and give him spiritual strength. And, yes, even to thank him for this physical ailment which can lead to his spiritual strength—an opportunity he found right outside our kitchen door.
Copyright 2010 Kathleen Blease