Terrible Palsy – The Terrible Underpants

We have a bedtime book that was read on high rotation a year or so ago called, “The Terrible Underpants”. I think I enjoyed reading it more than my kids. It is a story of a little girl getting ready for school who discovers her good underpants are in the wash and the only pair left is the ones with the bung elastic and baggy bottoms. Oh hell – I have them in my drawers too! I don’t understand how I can still have a “terrible underpants day” as an adult! Sigh…..

I am clearly not listening to my wife’s instructions. I lack the discipline to throw them out before they make their way back through the wash cycle. Inauspiciously those tricky pants seem to wait until I am engaging with an individual face to face and I can feel them falling down but I can’t show that I am distracted! In my mind I am convinced that everyone can see that I am naked underneath and smirking at my terrible underpants moment – I then begin to battle my 5 year old inner child who wants to run and cry!

I reckon people have verbal or philosophical versions of “The Terrible Under Pants”. I have lost count of how many times well meaning people have reduced the challenges of my own life to a concise sentence, placing the complex and ever evolving moments into a box of convenience. To be transparent I am guilty of doing that to others in the past – maybe I continue to do so unknowingly?

Terrible underpants moments happen regularly to my daughter Sunshine. She has severe Cerebral Palsy. Incredibly I still have people asking how long Sunshine’s life expectancy is! Right there is a pair of undies that need to be discarded never to go in the wash cycle and worn again! Some people ask if Sunshine is cognitively aware – another pair of terrible underpants! I would encourage anybody reading this to not ask those types of questions of anyone “different” and simply take the “risk” and engage directly with the person – you will discover who they are with a little effort.

Many people who are in challenging situations do not have the energy to educate others on what is appropriate or not, they are just trying to survive. They need others to slow down and think things through. Most parents, spouses and relatives who are touched by disability respond well to humility and vulnerability. The best way to discard those terrible underpants is to do the long haul with an individual who is affected by a disability, you will learn from them and be a better person because of it.

For me…. my most uncomfortable “terrible underpants” moments are when I have attended a church service and occasionally a well meaning person makes an enthusiastic statement inferring how God wants to heal an individual with a sore elbow, earache, headache or such thing. Sometimes the people chosen are called to the front of the church to have prayer. Seemingly…. off the radar are the more needy sitting in the aisles contemplating what they are witnessing and are now confronted with the conflict of Gods inability or reluctance to heal them on the same day that he supposedly is prepared to heal the more mundane – but not the desperately challenging. That is a terrible pair of underpants with big holes in them.

I would encourage anyone who supposes they hear directly from God about people’s health or a blessing he wants to give, to be mindful of how a misdirected comment can cause a painful moment for the most vulnerable. It would be helpful to ask the question, “where do my pastoral responsibilities lay and does my inspirational comments have an adverse affect on a particular group of people?” It would be a sobering process to have a higher level of accountability on all that is said on behalf of God in and around church life. It feels appropriate to me since the outcome can be so devastating to people on the receiving end.

The mystery of faith and the reality of life beat dissonantly against each other. Trying to resolve that dissonance is a perilous journey and reducing it down to bite size pieces is like taming the ocean. Those who make a “promise” based on a biblical premise can encourage one individual and make another spiral down because their reality tells them otherwise. If someone makes a theological proposition on something like healing, they also have to be able to address the contradiction that most other people live with – if they can’t, it would be best for them to not state a “fact” or claim that God is talking to them about an absolute because it will be at the expense of the broken hearted.

Wisdom is laying in piles inside the hearts of the broken but humanity tends to strive for the sensational only to miss the marrow in the mundane or the unknown. Doing life well is not the sum of successes, it is how quickly you discard those terrible underpants, put a new pair on and love people around you.

6 thoughts on “Terrible Palsy – The Terrible Underpants

  1. Hah; a good laugh & some insight. Love it.
    Heaps of terrible undies moments are queuing up in my mind, from the trivial to the moments where your only response is “really???”
    My own prejudices have caused as many “undies” moments as I have witnessed. (Like the euphemistic proclamation each Sunday church service “It's going to be an awesome Sunday”. Really??? What if it's just an average Sunday) That's why I love scriptures like the new wine into old wineskins. Scriptures like that give me great hope that no matter how wrong I have got it, I have the opportunity to learn & start again.
    There is other potential in what you write though. Perhaps we could co-promote a “New undies Sunday” in churches all over the country?
    Just a thought


  2. Well said Jay, Having been on the receiving end of some of those 'terrible undies' statements I can fully appreciate what you say. Thanks for putting it in perspective. 🙂


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