Remember the feeling? Maybe in your geeky middle school years? …glancing around for a seat, being the new one. The panic that took your breath away as you saw nothing but seats taken. Fight or Flight! It kicks in as you wonder, “Is there a place for me?!?!” “Is there a seat for me?!?!” You debate throwing your lunch tray aside and running for the hills, or at least that one hill with the football field. Or maybe you developing your own FANTASTIC coping mechanism that transported you onto a tropical island. You did, didn’t you!?! Well, not all of us are as advanced.
I always thought “seat taken syndrome” might die with the middle school days? In the volumes in my library of unuttered assumptions, I did.
It happened again this weekend, and it’s happened 100’s of times since wheels were put under my boys feet. (Why, oh why, can I just shoot straight? For those un-flowery-worded-peeps – THE KID IS IN A WHEELCHAIR). I don’t have volumes of assumptions on life with a wheelchair…or even pages, cause, I never went there. But I am filling the pages in this place, and this is the GOOD STUFF folks, the stuff that builds a life of meaning!
Okay, so back to what it means to “roll in.” This weekend it meant rolling into a crowded room for dinner theater, seats spread stadium style in 3 rows that each stepped down, the stage below. Although there were enough vacant seats, none of them were on the main level that we had to stay on. (I say “had to” with a chuckle b/c I am married to a man who will CARRY A WHEELCHAIR UP AN ESCALATOR. Don’t call the cops though. He does it out of sheer love with NO BOUNDS and I don’t know what I’d do without the boundless dreamer of a man! …and I do rein him in a bit, so I wasn’t about to let him park the wheelchair on a row of stairs.
We walked round the room, the 6 of us, our little 2 mermaids with painted faces, the pirate in the chair, the service dog that everyone mistakes for a pit bull, and John and I both a couple of inches over 6 feet. #nothingtolookatherefolks! But honestly, I don’t even know if people do stare. I’m a mom on a mission. I charge around the room looking for a spot. The panic that used to choke me on first sight, I knew how to push the monster down. The teary eyed retreats from movie theaters, doors shut in our face, the minutes that felt like hours, trying to find a spot at a crowded luncheon with un-accessible aisles, office parties…they are training me to pause the panic.
The kids show was loud, the laughter filled the room below us, as we walked round the bowl, looking for some opening, some place, ANY place, to see. 360 degrees and no opening. The panic resurfaces, and I shove it down again. “There is no place for us, but we must WAIT. Be still and WAIT.”
We stand behind some folks and listen to the show, smiling and enjoying this wild crew that we six make. One minute later two twenty-something girls offer us their seats. We park my boy next to the girls and park the mermaids rears on the bar stools beside him. My soul smiles. They saw. He saw. I knew that the column blocked my boys view, but I talked to him and he watched his dog and smiled wide. A minute later, the guys to our right were getting up and coaching us through the moving the chair in the spot that their stools had occupied as they pulled them back, angling my boy just right to see the show. My soul smiled WIDE.
This place that made me want to run for the hills, the place of seats full and people staring? When I smiled, when I shoved panic down with prayers and trust – trust that I was loved, that I had a place at the table even when all seats were taken. When I dared wait and trust – HOPE and PROVISION sprang before me. In the stillness, in the circling, in the smiling, in the thanks giving like spring after a long winter – they arose.
It’s taken me 8 years to get here, but I am here, and although our circumstances haven’t changed so much, my attitude has, and it makes easier, it softens the hinges on doors, it makes it easier for people to see me when my anger and grief aren’t so heavy around me, it makes it easier for me to see, to wait, to have faith that promises WILL be kept, all in good time.
There is a place for you, friend. You may not see it, but if you can be still. If you can wait, you will find it there in the quiet.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; – Psalm 37:7
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. – John 14:2-3