And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
Growing up with Cerebral Palsy, I learned to hate certain words.
I disliked being called “cripple”.
I cringed when I heard the word “handicap”.
I became enraged when people, either unintentionally or intentionally called me “retarded”.
But of all the names and phrases that people use to describe me, the one that set my blood boiling was (and is to this day) is a simple contraction used in everyday conversation. That word? CAN’T.
To me, CAN’T is a challenge word. I was taught that CAN’T is an excuse I can’t use, especially if I haven’t tried. I have always challenged myself to change “I can’t” to “Not yet!”. I have learned that all tasks can be learned eventually with much practice over time. I have taught myself to ride a bike, drive a car and many other countless tasks that seemed impossible when I first attempted them.
My family is aware of my tenacity and reminded me of this the other day when I met my siblings for Brunch. We try to get together about once a month, simply to touch base on what is going on with our lives. On this day, we were talking about our annual brother’s golf tournament coming up in the summer.
One cool thing about our lives growing up was our Grandfather had a golf course, a little nine-hole course in upper Michigan. Grandpa opened it after his thirteen children left home and he could not run a forty-acre farm by himself. Several years later he sold it to my Uncle who ran it for another twenty-some years. My Uncle eventually wanted out and since none of the others, including my Father, were interested, it was sold out of the family.
About 25 years ago, my brothers and I realized how much we missed that old golf course. The four of us now head up one weekend a year for what we call the “Polish Open”.
At brunch, we were discussing the possibility that we might not be able to find a weekend since my brother Tom Palzewicz is running for Congress and has campaign events every weekend. I made the mistake of piping up that maybe we could skip this year since my arm still hurt from my fall last October (See T-Rex).
Suddenly, Jim (the eldest) puts his hand up and announces that we are entering “The aches and pains” part of the conversation. This is a usual part of our get-togethers in which we compare our failing bodies with the rest. Tom, who is on the other end of the table, asks me why I can’t golf. I tell him about the fall. He dismissed the explanation, saying that he similarly hurt his arm a couple of years ago and now he swings the club better. Ron, the youngest, tells me I have to come because he wants to win his money back from Poker. Deb says nothing but stares at me in a way that tells me that backing out of this was not an option.
I admit defeat and humbly inform them all that they are probably right and I will try golfing again this year. I realize that I can’t swing a golf club yet! I even joke that I have my excuse ready for the futility trophy.
Our yearly competition has two trophies. The first one is a golfer on top of a fake marble column. The golfer has his arms back in mid-swing and is missing a club. On the bottom is a list of years along with the initial of the brother who took first place. There is not a “K” anywhere on the bottom. The other is a wooden board with a 9 iron that is busted in half attached to the top of it. Written on it with a sharpie is the year, the name of the last-place finisher and an excuse to explain away their failure.
My past excuses include 2014 El Nino, 2008 Political Chaos, and 2006 Extreme Jet Lag from my trip to Guatemala. I think 2020 will be “I am a T-Rex.”
But, every year when I go up with them, I never tell myself I can’t win. I always think I have a chance, that maybe it is my time to place a “K” under the little golfer without a club. I tell myself that I CAN win the tournament… I just haven’t yet!
Also, I remind myself, that our brothers’ golf tournament is not about trophies or numbers on the scorecard. Of all the things that we do that weekend, golfing is only a small part. The main reason we endure the golfing is to experience the fellowship and camaraderie. It’s about swapping stories and having fun with people who generally care for who you are, not what you can do. The 72 hours I spend with my brothers is not about hitting a little white ball into a hole in a certain number of strokes. The competition may be the reason for the yearly excursion but in the big picture, it really does not factor into the weekend much at all. I would miss out on so much more if I limit my thinking to only what I can’t do that weekend.
How many times have you limited your experiences because of the word “CAN’T”? I talk to people at my church who have told me they can’t go on a mission trip or help out in a food pantry because of excuse X, Y, or Z. Many times, depending on how well I know them, I simply look them in the eye and ask, “Can’t or Not yet?”
Bottom line, most of us do not like to be told that we can’t do something, especially when the reason doesn’t make sense to us. On the same hand, we frequently inform others of what they can or can’t do around us.
Is that why some people have a problem with religion? They have read in the Bible about the standards of God, specifically the ten commandments. They quickly realize that they can’t keep any of them, especially when you factor in what Jesus tells us about our thoughts. That CAN’T prevents them from entering into a relationship with Jesus, who knows we can’t. Not Yet.
I see religion, not as a list of things that I can’t have, but rather, like my brothers, a gateway to a much more pleasant experience if I ignore my own instincts and trust God’s word on how I should live my life. With the golf weekend, I could give up a whole weekend of fun and relaxation because one aspect would cause me discomfort. Don’t some people give up on the whole experience of God as well, just because one part of God’s word causes discomfort?
We don’t follow Jesus just to get something, like a trophy. We follow him because, like my brothers, he will ground you in truth, call you out when you are being foolish, have your back when you are hurting and pick you up when you have fallen.
Mostly, we follow Jesus because we enjoy his company. We enjoy the fellowship and camaraderie that comes from being with him and fellow followers. We do not get together because of our skills and what we can accomplish. We don’t serve on mission trips and food pantries for trophies. We serve because we have experienced the love of Christ in our lives and we want to repeat that experience. We also want others to experience it as well, just as my brothers knew that I would have a great weekend, regardless of how high I could lift the club above my head.
Christ knows our limitations, but, like my brothers, they are not allowed to become excuses. Like myself,
Whenever I tell Jesus I can’t do something, he answers with one little word that delights me and terrifies me at the same time.
Prayer: Dear Jesus. You have called me to accomplish things in your kingdom, but sometimes I feel like I can’t do what you are asking. Yet. Give me the skills I need to get done what you are asking of me.
If these words have impacted you, please feel free to share and comment.