M. Regina Cram
I was nearly out of my mind. I was in a meeting for an important project, but one person on the committee was driving everyone crazy. This lady jiggled her leg, tapped her foot, paced around the room and, when called on, seemed distracted and scattered. She acted as if she had Attention Deficit Disorder, a difficulty in focusing and organizing one’s thoughts, usually associated with school-age children. I knew she had even tried medication to treat the problem but nothing helped. Instead, she just drove everyone crazy.
The most frustrating thing was that I could never get away from this lady.
Why? The woman is me.
It wasn’t always this way. My childhood was filled with orderliness and books – lots and lots of books. Back then, my concentration was fine, and if anything needed organizing, I was the one to call.
But 16 years ago, a medical emergency robbed my brain of oxygen, leaving me with impaired ability to read, follow sequences and organize.
It’s incredibly frustrating. “I could do so much more!” I complain to God as often as possible. “If only I could keep track of things, if only I could read. Just think how much I could accomplish! Instead, I’m so limited.”
And God asks in reply, “What do you have in your hand?”
Then I remember. Back in the Old Testament, the Israelites were an unruly bunch. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush to tell him to lead the Jews out of bondage, Moses was skeptical. Moses saw only obstacles – and there were many. God, however, wasn’t concerned with obstacles. He didn’t want to know what Moses couldn’t do; he wanted to know what Moses could do.
“What do you have in your hand?” God asked Moses at a particularly stubborn juncture in the conversation. Moses’ reply was something along the lines of, “Just this big, ugly stick.” So God zapped the stick and turned it into a serpent, which Moses used to convince the Israelites to follow him out of Egypt.
So again God asks me, “What do you have in your hand?”
God is not concerned with what I don’t have or what I can’t do. He wants to know what I can do. What do I have in my hand that I can offer to him?
Fast forward several years. I was at the grocery store, contemplating the chocolate Teddy Grahams in aisle three, when an acquaintance stopped to say hello. This woman looked stunning as always, with perfect clothes, perfect makeup, perfect hair. She was married to a prominent surgeon with a Colgate smile, and together they had two beautiful children and an exquisite home. On weekends, they did volunteer work with the underprivileged.
It all looked pretty perfect to me.
So I was surprised when, after a few pleasantries, she blurted out, “You have such a perfect family.”
What? Did I hear her correctly? She knew only what she saw at Mass on Sunday mornings when we were well-scrubbed and well-behaved. Even then, my younger children bickered in the sacristy about whose turn it was to light the candles, while the older kids slouched and sulked in the pew. All she saw was the veneer, the exterior of our lives, and she concluded that the family is perfect.
“I am very blessed,” I said honestly, “but believe me, we have our share of problems.”
“No, you don’t,” she stated emphatically, as if her future rested on believing her own words. “Your family is perfect. Your life is perfect.”
I was shocked. What did she know about my life? I didn’t feel that I owed her an account of my problems, but neither did I want to be dismissed as some stained- glass saint who waltzes effortlessly through life on gilded wings.
“My life isn’t perfect at all,” I insisted. “I battle arthritis, thyroid disease and mental illness. I have trouble reading. We deal with teenage and family issues. Sometimes life is really hard.”
Yeah, right, perfect life, I thought to myself. If life were really perfect, I’d be able to curl up with a good book. I wouldn’t walk with a cane. If my life were perfect I could accomplish so much more . . .
And again I remembered. “What do you have in your hand?”
Not much, Lord. And I have a beat-up body and a leaky mind.
I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure that God replied, “Sounds good to me. Now let’s see how we can put those to good use.”
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.