Fourteen casts, 10 procedures/surgeries (half of them completed in our care) and two years into our family, Superman has totally lived up to his nickname.
From the moment he entered the Cuthredible league, he was not only faster than a speeding bullet (which is why I sold my morals for the monkey backpack leash I promised I would never attach to my kin) — he was stronger than steel. And he didn’t let ANY of his medical conditions, including the missing radius and underdeveloped thumb on his right hand, keep him from flying. Or keeping up with two older brothers.
When he had an ulnar centralization on his right wrist to stabilize the hand that had only one bone, Superman had to don a cast for months. Instead of complaining about his new ban on swimming, non-bagged bathing and trampoline jumping, he simply ordered a red cast. From the cast room specialists who he saw so often he began calling “uncle.” And then proceeded to use it as a light saber to fight his brothers.
When Superhero 1 was looking for a foot rub, Superman, with one arm still casted, negotiated.
“I rub your feet, you read me three books,” he told him.
When Superhero 1 agreed, Superman rubbed the stankiest feet I know with his left, uncasted hand (which had grown quite strong while compensating for an immobilized right hand and had become quite the coveted massager).
After a minute, Superman stopped and ran to the other room to grab his books.
“Hey, that was only a two-second foot rub!” Superhero 1 protested.
Superman looked him straight in the eye and, with English he had only known for 18 months, said as clear as day: “You didn’t say how long. Three books. Read.”
And when that fast learner of a superhero had to undergo his final hand surgery, the one where his orthopedic surgeon was to amputate his stub of a thumb and pollicize his first finger (turn his pointer finger into his thumb), this experienced patient didn’t protest. Didn’t cry. Didn’t fight us when we had to cut off his food the night before and wake him up at 3 a.m. that day. He simply asked matter-of-factly, “So now, doctor chop off my thumb, turn my finger, and Mommy and A.J. have special date watching Frozen and eating popsicles?”
Pretty much. In that place you call the “children’s hotel” with the food that you’ve mentioned 17 times is better than Mommy’s. (Superman makes surgery sound like so much fun that both Superhero 1 and Superhero 2 have asked at various points when they can please have surgery.)
After taking only one dose of Tylenol to help with the pain caused by amputating one appendage and completely transplanting another, Superman trotted (because this superhero doesn’t have walking feet) into his follow-up appointment a couple weeks later.
As his cast room “uncles” removed the cast that had kept his new appendage a surprise for two weeks, Superman stopped. He stared. He examined his now stitch-covered pointer-finger-turned-thumb. And then he looked up at me and asked, “Mom, I really like my new thumb … but I little miss my old one. Where it go? In the trash can where thumbs live?”
(I didn’t have the heart to tell him that yes, his former appendage now went to the “trash cans” where thumbs live … even though Superhero 1 had begged the surgeon to keep his little brother’s appendage so he could take it in for “T” show and tell day at Superman’s preschool.)
Today, eight months after that amputation and pollicization and four months after breaking free from his 14th cast, Superman rocks out what we call his “Superman hand” everywhere we go. (Although we may need to introduce a little humility as we address the fact that he now brags to his preschool playmates, “This is my Superman hand. I can do with FOUR fingers what takes you FIVE!”)
And God has been using that very special hand to teach ME a few lessons.
Like Superman's hand before surgery, I, too, have some things on my hands and in my life that are just not very efficient, effective or useful, and that frankly hamper my function and my personal growth.
Like Superman’s former thumb, some of them are not intrinsically BAD things — but they ARE things that keep me from being as effective as I could be in this life Jesus has gifted me.
But these not fully formed stubs, these hindrances, are FAMILIAR. They're what I know. They've always been there. Some of them I've accepted as "personality traits." And they allow my hands to work GOOD ENOUGH. And so part of me doesn't care that these stubs might hinder me from God's best, because sometimes in this busy life, I get complacent — and on those days, "good enough" is good enough for me.
The things is, our Great Physician, like Superman’s surgeon, isn't okay with "good enough." He doesn't do hampered function — He knows we were created for more than that. And so HE asks us to put our lame fingers, our non-functioning stubs, our hanging digits that work GOOD ENOUGH in HIS perfect hands to perform surgery. Because the God who makes the blind to see and the lame to walk can take even our stubs and not fully formed fingers and transform GOOD ENOUGH into GREAT FOR HIS GLORY.
Today, Superman has an opposable appendage on his right hand for the first time in his life. For the first time ever, he can use scissors, open jars, hold a light saber, pick strawberries with both hands. Don't get me wrong — this determined and resilient superhero figured out alternate methods to complete all these tasks before. But what used to take him several minutes using a scissor-like motion with his 2nd and 3rd fingers, with an opposable thumb, now takes him seconds.
The thing is — he never even realized how much BETTER his function could be until he put his trust in a surgeon to perform the operation. Had his doctor not requested to perform surgery, he would have been happy to live his life with a not fully functioning hand. And he would have never known the BEAUTY of an opposable thumb.
Jesus has been challenging ME to give HIM the opportunity to perform surgery. To amputate some of these lame digits in my life. To transform my "good enough" into HIS "great" for HIS glory. Because it's only with an opposable appendage that I will fully and literally be able to GRAB HOLD of everything He has for me.
Strawberries and light sabers are only the beginning.