Have you ever prayed for patience? I remember in the early stages of the phone cord debacle, I hesitated before the Lord. I knew exactly what I needed –I needed patience. But if I actually asked for it, I feared the Lord would drop the ‘here and now course’ directly onto my head. And already I felt as if I was failing at the ‘patience for dummies’ course that I keep having to remediate.
Traumatic brain injuries come in all shapes and sizes. For my handsome, often frustrating ginger, Ian’s dominant struggles include memory, attention and problem solving (Think unpredictable dementia in a brazen, confident 22 year old.) Those challenges may not be readily apparent on the outside… but oh how they show up unkindly in life. Needless to say, parenting, or at the very least care giving, requires muscles I’ve never had to use before.
Have you ever wondered what Paul’s thorn was? What tormented him? What drove Paul to his knees?
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 . Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Bible scholars have debated the question for centuries. I believe when the bible is vague, it’s intentionally vague. In this case, I appreciate the vagueness because it allows us to easily apply this passage to our own lives.
Think about that “thing” in your life that CONSISTENTLY gets under your skin. That thing that trips you up and brings out your true colors — colors you’re not proud of. That thing that keeps you on your heels.
I love my thorn. My thorn has turned my world upside down in virtually every aspect and has caused growth in me that I would have NEVER chosen on my own. My ever changing thorn is always one step ahead of my mastery. And drives me to my knees without blinking over and over and over.
What is my thorn? My thorn is my handsome ginger, Ian. My thorn is a person. From the day he was born, he zigs when the world zags. He has defied any skill I may have developed as his mom. At no time can I recall a season of motherhood where I could relax with confidence. Nope, when I do, he instantly exposes me and I’m back on my knees again.
Phone Cord Fiasco
Ian’s refurbished iPhone 5, potentially a fabulous tool to assist TBI deficits, gives directions, stores passwords and records classroom lectures. This same device works for traditional basic communication. But in order to work for any of those ways, OBVIOUSLY, it needs to be charged. And in Ian’s world that small thing is not a small thing. It requires some pre-planning, self control and care.
On more than one occasion, Ian’s uncharged phone has impacted me. Not only the stress and obvious danger of not being able to communicate, but quite practically when and where do I pick him up? Details that for someone living only in the present are just a bother.
Strikes 1, 2, 3
Because a charged phone was important enough to me, I purchased a pack of 3 cords from Amazon. I figured one in his backpack, one at home, and one in the drawer for good measure. My pack of 3 lasted about a week. The blame was spread everywhere… one was a lemon when the prongs snapped off, the other must have fallen out of his pocket and the 3rd went to the thief sitting next to him in class. Strikes 1, 2 and 3.
Ian’s solution… I’ll just live without a phone cord. Going to bed later than mom, works perfectly. He unplugs my phone and he’s good to go. Ian’s solution lasted 24 hours. Strike 4.
Back to square 1, I insisted, Ian replace his own phone cord. The phone cord he purchased was black and used the bursar account at the university. Perfect, it’s just like the other phone cords and because it’s on the house account, mom pays. He ripped open the package and stuffed the cord in his pocket. You guessed it, the cord doesn’t fit his phone. And the package and receipt disappeared somewhere between here and there. Strike 5.
The very next day he tries again. This time he went with white. He made sure it said iPhone 5 on the package. Progress. Even though more expensive, this time, we were celebrating. He proudly showed me the ripped open package. The good news is that it does plug into his phone. The bad news is, the other end plugs into a computer, that he doesn’t own. But before we strategized how to put the white cord to use, Ian discovers the worst news. He has the box and the receipt, but no cord. It evaporated. Strike 6.
If you’re keeping track, phone cord expenses have accrued to about sixty bucks. I pray. Lord, how many strikes? How many times do I extend grace? How many times do I forgive Ian? No sooner had the thought come into my mind when I see the neon sign flash Seventy times Seven.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?” 22 “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven,”
I’m organized, frugal and plan ahead. I’ve been known to return the Redbox movie at 11pm in my Pjs so I’m not charged the extra two dollars. Returns gnaw at me. Rarely do they sit “unreturned” for more than 24 hours because, I just can’t relax in their presence. Ian flies by the seat of his pants. His disorganized approach, exasperated by a TBI, is the oil to my water.
The Lord Redirects
Over the weekend, still stewing over the unsolved phone cord caper, I came across the familiar passage in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I know this scripture as the passage typically read at weddings. But this time, I read the words against the backdrop of MY present situation. The words gripped my heart. The words seemed sticky almost, like a catchy tune you just can’t shake.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails.
Other than the scripture passage hanging over me, my weekend was quite typical, boring even. Laundry, a short hike, a grocery run, some football, red wine with my husband… But Ian seemed different. Even though he didn’t enjoy much friend time (a typical requirement for a good weekend), he was pleasant and kind, thoughtful and considerate. Coincidence I thought, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Sunday morning, I woke to Ian singing. Completely agreeable to join me to attend worship. I enjoyed rather than endured his company. Spotting my misty eyes provoked by a favorite worship song, he rubbed my back. Unsolicited, he said he loved me. Still guarded and a bit skeptical. It can’t last, I think cautiously.
Loving me into submission
At home now, Ian opened our pantry to discover some restocked snacks, many of his favorites. He smirked and said, “I’m on to you mom. I see what you’re doing here. You’re loving me into submission.” I laughed. Completely baffled that this clueless male, this bull in a china shop, would notice.
In that moment, God granted me some insight. Ian’s untypical behavior was no coincidence. God, who gifted me with that kid for His purposes, was right smack in the middle of our relationship.
As a recovering control freak, I’ve made a crucial discovery. When you come to the end of yourself, you discover you’re at the beginning of Him.
The Moral of the Story
That afternoon, at target, Ian purchased the correct phone cord. It’s $9.99 price tag provoked a wry smile. No way, I thought to myself. That phone cord is made of pure gold. It cost seventy dollars and a whole lot of heartache. And God said… But the life lesson, PRICELESS.