You can read parts 1, 2 and 3 on my series about grace.
Before I sum up my final thoughts on grace, I feel as though I should clarify some things from my last post on grace. Many of you left comments about feeling bad for Lamp and in re-reading the post I could see why. In order to accurately discuss grace, it usually has to be in the context of the negative, difficult things we deal with. But I feel that in focusing so much on the negative I may have presented our everyday life in an inaccurate way. Yes, those are some of the realities in the life of our Lamp, but here are the other realities. Lamp has a lot of friends who love her, play with her and aren't phased in the least by her differences, because to them she is just Lamp. I've watched as these little ones instinctively know that she may need a little extra help, so they bring her a toy she can't reach or sit and eat fish crackers on the floor with her instead of at the table. One of my close friends was saying that to this day, neither of her kids have ever mentioned Lamp's arms or hands. For them it was never an issue. While that's on the rare side, it does happen. Also, going out and about in public is not a difficult thing for us. Yes sometimes we encounter a difficult conversation or experiences like I mentioned in other posts, but these experiences by no means make up the bulk of our daily lives. IN fact, I wrote a post about this a while ago called, 99%. More importantly, Lamp is a happy, outgoing girl. Yes, I have seen this awareness bring on a shyness and hesitancy at times that didn't used to be there--and in some of the worst cases a genuine sadness, but she bounces back rather quickly. Overall she has always been a girl who radiates confidence and joy. In fact, as an appendix to the story of the little girl who kept telling Lamp she didn't want to be her friend I give you this: Lamp really had a hard time that day and kept talking about this little girl. I acknowledged that yes I know she hurt her feelings, but then I reminded her of all the wonderful friends she does have and all the kids who were coming to her birthday party. I reminded her that most everyone wants to be her friend. She then said, "You're right mom." And that was that.
This post has been a mile long and super short, I'm not sure how to conclude...so I'll try to land somewhere in the middle.
As Lamp was nearing her second birthday there were 2 rather philosophical/theological issues I was feeling unresolved about. I'm about to get all religious up in here, so consider yourself warned.
1. How does someone live according to the teachings and commandments of God, when you've been handed an "impossible" life circumstance?
I used to think that living in a world without typical hands was impossible. As we've seen over the course of our daughters life and through the miracle of the internet, I now know this isn't impossible. People like Nick, Kyle, Gabe, and Kayla are some great examples of people who live full and happy lives despite major differences, just to name a few.
But here's what does feel impossible. As a practicing Mormon I believe in commandments. Not just the big 10, but lots of commandments in the scriptures, words of living prophets, etc. Some of the basic ones include gratitude to God for all He has given us, not becoming bitter or angry, treating others with kindness and charity, love your neighbor, etc. Obviously these aren't just Mormon things--many people from many walks of life can relate to these ideals. Nevertheless, I have always felt a measure of obligation to be living the way I believe God wants me to live. In the context of my life, these things aren't too much to ask. I've often given thanks for my healthy, fully-functioning body. I strive to treat others with kindness, and so on.
But for Lamp, and for many many others, it has crossed my mind that God might be asking too much. Be grateful in all things? Including a body that falls short of what most people consider whole? Love thy neighbor when there is a much higher percentage of stares, rude comments and prejudice that she can count on for the rest of her life all because of that body she's supposed to be so grateful for in the first place? Impossible. Most of us struggle with these commandments with the best set of circumstances, so why is she being held to the same standard? This idea of living in impossible was issue #1.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe the accounts of his life in the New Testament. I kept thinking about Jesus' earthly ministry and how He always healed those He came in contact with. I couldn't think of an instance when someone asked to be healed and they were turned away. Healing the blind, the lame, bringing people back to life, etc. YET, so many people, and in my mind too many people, I know have never been healed from their infirmities even when they've asked and prayed to that same Jesus Christ or God to do so. And well, we sorta asked for some things too and didn't really see any miraculous healing. Yes I have heard miraculous accounts of people being healed--even first hand accounts--but again it seems rare, so why the inconsistency? Why are some healed and not others?
And so it was on the morning after I heard that word grace, and started listening to a talk it was this part of the talk that spoke to me, a new definition of grace that I had never heard quoting from our LDS bible dictionary: Grace: A word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.... It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by His atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own devices.
It would still take more talks and even speaking with friends, family and ecclesiastical leaders to come to a place where it made sense. My expanded understanding grace has come to mean this: Lots of people live in some version of impossible--crippling illness, unfathomable abuse, poverty, unexpected death of a loved one, and many other situations that lie beyond the bounds of what most of us consider a manageable life. And I had always believed in a God and Savior who could take those pains away, there was a price that had been paid and though I wasn't always sure how, I believed that healing could occur. Sure physical healing, but also emotional and mental. But that was only one side of it--the healing side. The other part is grace--the enduring side. This is the side where your burdens or circumstances don't change--they're not miraculously removed, you're not healed, but you can be given strength and power beyond your own natural abilities to rise above, live well and be happy regardless of life's circumstances.
In truth, I don't know how it all works and much of it is still in theory. I believe prayer, study and actively seeking positive thoughts and actions will help. The area of my life where I feel this grace the most is in my lack of bitterness towards others who stare or say rude things to Lamp and an increased compacity to give them the benefit of the doubt--again, not natural for me. Perhaps I've also felt this grace in the compacity to do the extra physical tasks that come with being her mom but that have never felt like a burden but instead usually feel like love.
But that's just me. Because of course it's not my life--it's her life. When your the mother of young children so much of your life overlaps with theirs, that it really does feel like their challenges are your challenges as well--and they are. But as Lamp grows that will change and there will be little I can do to shoulder the weight of her special trials. That's true for all our kids, no? I do however hope that as I'm learning this lesson so is she. That I can model grace in all its forms for her so that when the times comes to completely transfer this weight to her shoulders, it will be as light as possible. Not because the weight is lighter, but because her shoulders are stronger.
Thanks for reading my thoughts on this topic. I know there are so many variations and definitions in regards to grace and I welcome your thoughts and insights as well! I also know that there are many people who will find this whole idea silly--that's fine too. And lastly, I know there are some holes in the logic and application above--I simply couldn't write it all, but I tried to communicated the gist as well as I could. If you're interested in reading/listening to two talks that have been profound in helping me understand grace check out the links below.
His Grace is Sufficient--Brad Wilcox
In the Strength of the Lord--David A. Bednar