"Ethan, did you know we have a Noah's ark toy?" I asked.
"We do?" he answered.
Indeed we do: the Fisher Price Noah's ark, complete with white-bearded Noah and an assortment of animals (in pairs, of course). The ark (or more specifically, the animals) had been one of Anna's favorite toys from around 18 months to age 3. Back then we spent an inordinate amount of time lining them up two by two, making them romp around, even having the animals attending "animal school" and playing on the "animal playground" (made of wooden blocks).
Noah's ark had been gathering dust in the basement for years, along with a good number of other toys. For some reason I had brought it up upstairs and back to the playroom not long ago.
We bopped over to the toys. I presented the ark and took out the animals that have been patiently waiting in small toy bins. Out they came, into their lines of two by two, although probably at least five of the animals are now missing their partners. Can I just say that despite the cliches Ethan hates lining things up? You'll never see him do it. I wanted a nice neat line of animals leading to the ark, but he wasn't having that. We crammed them into the mammoth boat and began sailing it over the carpeted sea...where Ethan then decided we needed to start shooting it with fire bombs. Then a pirate attacked. Sadly, the animals and Noah ended up quite dead, sprawled about everywhere. Funny, I don't remember reading that part in Genesis.
I can't describe the feeling. I can't describe what it means to wonder (and even believe) your child will perhaps never be able to do something, to in some cases even be told he most likely will not (again, I hear the teachers, "he's just not into play; he'll like video games someday"), but then yet in time watch him prove the skeptics wrong. Something about that makes the experience, makes the littlest, relatively ordinary moment like listening to your child ask, actually ask, to play with a Mr. Potato Head or hear him rifling in the toy box, so rich and so beautiful.
While we sat and played and had our fun, my heart was full. My heart was full from the joy of the moment, absolutely, while simultaneously wanting to burst with longing for those just like me who have prayed and worked with and wished and tried everything for their child...yet still they wait for progress. Still, they wait for words, they wait for something to blossom. Their hearts ache. They don't understand.
The temptation is always there to ask, "Why us?" whether in a negative or positive context, but I don't think that can be the question. I know that these children and young adults and their families are no less loved, no less valuable, no less deserving of seeing breakthrough. There is no logical answer to why we are seeing some dreams realized while others wait...and wait.
Our pastor not long ago brought up something I'd never heard of, most likely because I don't have a deep, historical theological background. He was talking about a certain catechism (a summary of doctrine traditionally used in Christian teaching). Something called the Westminister Shorter Catechism, from way back in 1647, summarized Christian doctrine in this way:
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever!
When I read over those words, when I let them roll around my head and my heart, I can understand just a little.
A friend once had a quote up on her Facebook page, something like, "The question isn't why, but how?"
The question isn't why things are they way they are, but how we can use whatever comes to us to reflect God's glory?
I know, that sounds so Christian-y. And what does that even mean, to glorify God? That we stand around with pious, serious expressions and discount our feelings of despair because "God has a plan" or "this is God's will?"
I'm no theologian, but in my mind glorifying God means being more like Jesus. And what does that mean? Living a life that's more selfless and less selfish...loving without condition...using our pain to birth compassion in us for others...and knowing and longing for something far greater than this, something so incredibly awesome that the heartache of this world will seem to have lasted just a few seconds' time, in the grander stage of eternity.
I have this idea that heaven has nothing to do with sitting on clouds and playing harps. I see heaven as a place where we see broken dreams healed, where we get to do and see and hear all of the things we so longed to witness on this earth.
We will continue to rejoice in Ethan's progress and pray for those who are continuing to hope to see their loved one make greater gains. I pray my heart remains full -- of gratitude, of grace, of compassion for others. But may I understand that what Ethan or any of us accomplishes or doesn't on this earth pales to the greater glory, the greater story, that is being written and that we will never fully know, while we are still living in this world as we know it.