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Sunday, April 7, 2013

DARE to Respond

Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Viktor E. Frankl

“Something doesn’t sound right,” our pediatrician said, at our 3 week routine exam for our newborn. “It is probably nothing, but I would like you to go see a cardiologist-- now.” By the end of the afternoon, we had received the devastating news about our son’s heart condition (TAPVR) and registered at Columbia Children’s Hospital for his open heart surgery. A faint warning, a tiny hint, lead our pediatrician to made a bold choice-- she responded. She filled the space of doubt with a certainty that was needed to save a life. She taught me an important lesson.

17 month later I had a hunch that something wasn’t right. T was throwing objects and tantrums, flipping and kicking during diaper changes, tantruming at the sight of a car seat, pushing and hitting other children and destroying every space he came in contact with. Some people would say he was just an active boy toddler. But my heart was telling me otherwise. And from my experience so far as a parent, I knew that I needed to look at my child with fresh eyes and ears. Be willing to see the boy God gifted us. Willing to respond. So we did. I attended a workshop on toddler anger, and then, after confirming that my son’s behavior was atypical, I called Easter Seals. They confirmed that T needed help. And so we started the journey of responding to our son T with occupational therapy, psychotherapy, diet, at-home behavioral work, and a lot of love.

We have been told that if we had not responded as early as we did, T would have significantly worse challenges today. Embracing him where he is each day and responding is the best thing we can do for him. It is a hard lesson to remember. Each time we think we “know” him, he changes. And as soon as we think he is getting “better” he challenges us with a regression. But through learning how to see T, and to respond to him, we have learned how to see all people, to see life, and respond to it. We have found joy.

My husband Lynn and I have made many hard changes and choices since then. I guess by default we have become responsive people. When things don’t seem right for our family or for T, or even for our community, we investigate. We ask questions, we communicate, and we respond. Our children need our eyes, ears, heart and voice. There have been many difficult choices along the way. Like pulling T out of his school and choosing to homeschool him when we saw him suffering for too long. Or this last month when we left the stability and easy comfort of our church to find a new one more fitting to our family needs and beliefs. Both of these choices were lonely, painful ones. They meant losing people (if, we found sadly, our relationship was contingent upon our membership in the institution.) The changes meant stepping out of our comfort zone to respond to a life filled with uncertainty and possible failure, but also with immeasurable potential. A life of incredible joy.

I suppose I’m realizing that “responding” is unleashing the creative force that God places in my life. Responding sometimes feels first like walking on a thin, lonely tightrope when, as I get to the other side, I realize I’m walking on God’s firm hand. I cannot fall. Responding is starting a painting without any idea how it will look in the end, but taking bold strokes anyway. And the mysterious beauty of the painting emerges.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that I am constantly called to respond to this life I have been blessed with. How many times during the day or year do I miss the opportunity to respond-- to be quiet, to listen, pray over a need? To see the suffering or joy in another person and to express a kind word or action, just because I’m so blessed to see. To forgive someone. To identify a problem and have the courage to take a step toward change. To take a risk to be unpopular. To have faith. Maybe living is responding. God whispers, and sometimes He yells. We choose whether we listen and respond. We choose whether to dance to the music God is playing for us (I think all the time?) and to have access to immeasurable joy.

I pray that you and I might have the ears and heart to hear the music of our life, and to have the courage to walk, run, sing, shout or dance along the path God has chosen for each one of us. I really do think He wants us to respond... Don’t you?

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." --Mahatma Gandhi 


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