Tuesday, February 9, 2016

I'm Having a Very Good Life

One of my favorite movies in the world is a little known film called Mi Familia (or My Family).  I love it because it’s a beautiful snapshot of Los Angeles, a city that I deeply love, and about three generations of a Mexican family, a culture that I love.

I saw this movie when it first came out 21 years ago and since then, at least every couple of months I think about the final scene of the movie.  The matriarch and patriarch of the story, Jose and Maria, are sitting together in their golden years reminiscing about their past and they say, “God has been good to us, we've been very lucky, and our life it has been very...very good.” 

I remember being totally shocked by that scene because in their lives, Jose and Maria have endured many horrible, difficult things such as illegal deportation, the LAPD gunning down one son in front of another, several children going to jail, gang violence, the death of a daughter-in-law as she gave birth to a grandson, all kinds of racism, poverty, back-breaking work etc.  But somehow, near the end of their lives, they are grateful people.  They are grateful to God.  I remember thinking that it was some sort of miracle or parable --- to have a very difficult life but to be able to see it as good.  To have a glad and grateful heart even after having endured so much sadness and evil is shockingly striking.  The memory of this scene has been deeply planted in my mind.

I want to be like Jose and Maria. 

As someone on the journey of parenting a child with special needs, it is easy to see your life as less than good.  There are difficulties, isolation and so many things that you just can’t do.  I find myself wondering, “What is the next crisis that will come along?”, "Will I find poop in random places in my house?", "Do I have the strength today to battle with various systems that seem take a pound of flesh from me before giving me the meds that my son needs?"

It is still so easy to fall into comparison with other people, other families.  And then there is the future.  What will Josh do when he is booted from the school system?  Who will take care of Josh when we are no longer able to?  Will I ever not be parenting someone who functions as a toddler?  Anxiety, discontentment, bitterness:  these things offer themselves to me daily like shiny fruits from the forbidden tree in the middle of the garden of my life. 

But I am beginning to get a glimpse of what it might mean to be like Jose and Maria.  On some days, I look at my beautiful son and I find myself thinking about how lucky I am to get to be his mom.  I see him as the overwhelming gift that he is to me.  Through Josh I have learned compassion, servanthood, slowing down, being needy, waiting, the blessed state of being a dependent child.  I would not trade these lessons for anything.  I imagine myself, at the end of my life, thanking God and giving him unending praise for having the wisdom to give me a child like Josh for the sake of my own sanctification.  I picture God laughing that I could share His joy in the great gift of my son. 

As my mind stretches out to meditate on contentment, I remember a book that I read years ago called The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. This "rare jewel" of a book, written almost 400 years ago, addresses the basic problem of human discontent and suffering. True contentment, argues the author, is achieved by surrender to God.  I feel the hardness of my heart and the smallness of my brain whenever I approach this book.  But I also feel the warmth of the truth in it's contents and I am strangely attracted to it.  

I might be a complaining, entitled, cranky person tomorrow or even an hour from now but right now, I see and I submit to the reality that God knows what He is doing.  He loves me and wants more for me than I can even dare to imagine.  I am having a very, very good life.  

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