Sunday night. The movie, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, made in 1951, starring Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal, has always been one of my favorites. I remember thinking that Michael Rennie was such a handsome stranger from outer space! Besides the obviously scary idea of an alien coming to Earth from another planet (at least it was scary to me as a young girl…), there was an underlying theme having to do with the preconceptions that occur when someone is different. Although he was respectful, polite, oh-so-smart, and yes, handsome, he evoked suspicion from some. There was a young boy in the movie who only saw this man as a great guy and a new friend — interesting that children usually just go with the obvious and don’t consider ulterior motives or alternate realities. Even at a young age, I disliked the whole idea of prejudice, preconceived notions, and short-sighted judgments.
Two years ago yesterday, Rob received word that his biopsy results showed a malignancy: mono-phasic synovial sarcoma. That was the day the earth stood still for us. Upon hearing the news, Jim and I readied to leave for Atlanta. On our way in the car, Jim pursued finding the top sarcoma doctor, hoping we could get Rob in for a consultation appointment with an expert. Rather like the perfect storm (as Sandy bears down on us right now…), so many details needed to come together, and they did. At the time, and now in hindsight, there’s no doubt that it was God’s hand moving heaven and earth. Somehow we ended up in Dr. Rosen’s office in NYC four days later, and during that meeting it became clear that we’d need to move there, which happened just a few days after that… Throughout those eight months that we lived in New York, each necessary decision became clear at the time it needed to be made, as if the fog was constantly being lifted just in time to take the next step. Coincidence? Not really. God’s provision? Definitely.
Life’s twists and turns often lead us to unexpected places, unimaginable places. But, even though it seemed that the earth stood still, it roared straight ahead. As we consciously trusted that God was in control, the path became clear, day by day. Rob’s calm demeanor and surprising strength were surely God-given, and he still amazes us; Lee Anne and Jack stepped up to the plate to help in huge ways; Jim and I leaned wholly on God for daily stamina; loving and caring family and friends came alongside with prayers and TLC (never to be downplayed!), and we all seemed to move forward in the strange landscape that became our new normal. When a family member is diagnosed with cancer, the whole family rallies around that one whose life is on the line. For the one with cancer, it must be like entering a new realm, inhabited only by others who have received such a diagnosis — and from then on, they all speak the same silent language.
Two years later from that fateful day, Rob’s world has done anything but stand still. He’s been busy at work in the advertising world. He’s busy at play, learning how to become competitive in wheelchair basketball, getting his golf game back on track. He stays busy with constant prosthetist appointments in order to get his leg to fit right and work right. He’s busy with hobbies: photography, fantasy football, etc. Mainly he’s just busy being Rob — a full-time job.
Which brings me back to the theme of that 1951 movie: prejudice and preconceived notions. Following Rob’s amputation, when we were on the elevator in our building and a child got on the elevator with us, usually he/she would stare at the empty space where a leg should have been. Once Rob got into his prosthesis, we often noticed children staring at that strange metal thing where a leg should have been. It didn’t seem rude — they were simply curious. They were noticing the obvious, not making a value judgment. (Rob probably still encounters “stares” on a constant basis, and not just from children, I expect. But, I digress…) Anyway, to jump to the assumption that the “different” person is strange and untrustworthy just because they look, act, or are different in some way — that’s when the line is crossed. If we’re honest, we’ve all been there: either victims or perpetrators of such judgments, and probably both.
Today’s New International Version (TNIV)
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?