I saw an ad for the Wounded Warrior Project the other day. As the ad played, they showed soldiers with various injuries dealing with 'real life' after their life changing event. One soldier, in particular, caught my eye. He was getting dressed for the day, but because of his severe burn injuries, one of the things he had to 'put on' was his ears.
Fulton's ears (or lack thereof) is kind of a topic we haven't hit head on yet with him. He knows his hearing is not very good, and that his ears are 'very small'. Cleaning them is vastly different from the way it used to be, since his scars have created a few deep pockets in the ear area that require regular attention in addition to his regular ear canals. He has taken this all in stride, and honestly, unless we are washing his hair, we are pretty much at the point where we do not notice that his head is missing a few accessories. Which was why this commercial caught my attention.
The physical therapists at Shriners had mentioned that as he grows he will be getting some ears. And sometimes when we are getting him scanned for his face masks, I will see various prosthetic body parts on the counter, awaiting their final fittings. And I wonder - how will Fulton feel about having fake ears? Will years of not having them and dealing with the stares break his confidence down? Should we get them sooner, if possible? And how on earth do those things stay in place, anyway?
Later that day, I mentioned to Fulton that I saw a soldier on TV who was burned like he was. "And you will never guess what he had to put on as he was getting dressed for the day!"
"What?" he asked, only half interested.
"He put on," what was I doing bringing this up right now? "a pair," are you kidding me, Cassandra? Why are you telling him this? "of EARS!"
Would we have a detailed conversation about why someone would want prosthetic ears? Would he suddenly become self conscious about his own ears? Would he start asking questions to which I did yet know the answers? As I finished the sentence, panic hit me, and I wondered why I even brought it up in the first place. I awaited his response...
His entire face contorted as only his face can, laughing. Laughing so much, in fact, his eyes started to tear up. And off he ran. "Hey Shannon!" he called. "Guess what! There was a soldier who was burned and he had to put on his ears! HAHAHAHAHAHA! Someday I'm gonna get ears, too, and you can watch me put them on! HAHAHAHAHA!" This, of course, was followed by various demonstrations of how the ears probably are attached, and each sibling joined in the creativity of the moment.
Good grief - this child is laughing at himself!
And then I smiled. Could it be, this is the way Our Lord wants us to look at our own human imperfections? To not get bogged down with the downside of it all to the point where it paralyzes and prevents God's glory to shine through, but instead focus on what joy can come of it?
To be humble enough to laugh at oneself takes courage. It leaves you exposed. Vulnerable. But when, out of a deep love of God, you embrace the cross with which you have been blessed, a transformation takes place within your heart that allows you to not only accept your flaws and your burdens, but take joy in them and spread that joy to others. Your struggles are transformed into a source of sanctification and become the vehicle by which you ultimately give God glory in Heaven.
Fulton's journey has only just begun. I have been warned that at any time, the effects of his injuries and appearance can suddenly take a turn for him emotionally and darker days may be ahead. But for now, we are building on the joys at hand. He has accepted what has happened to him as part of God's bigger plan for his life. He brings joy to others through his cross. He embraces his role as one who serves as a warning to others to be careful around fire. He inspires. He renews people's faith. And he laughs. A lot. Which immediately puts others at ease and helps others laugh, too.
As I pondered this, I noticed the children had redirected the conversation from how to get the ears on to the multitude of ways the ears might come off. "And maybe," Fulton was giggling, "I can be on a roller coaster and they will fly off my head because I am riding so fast!"
At this point, all of us were laughing so hard, tears were streaming down our faces. Dear Lord, this child brings us so much joy!
Thank you, Lord, for showing me how to find the joy mingled within our sorrows. Help me to embrace my own imperfections. Remind me of the humor found in them. And give me humility to laugh at myself as I struggle to overcome the things You have given me for the betterment of my soul.
"Be merry, really merry. The life of a true Christian should be a perpetual jubilee, a prelude to the festivals of eternity." - St. Theophane Venard