“I can’t do it.”

Posted: 5 January 2012 in Faith and Life

I was talking to my grandson on the phone.  He’s two and a half and learning to talk.  He had something exciting to tell me but at a certain point lacked the words or ability to string the words he knew together to make me understand.  He handed the phone to his mom and said “I can’t do it.”

I have spent most of my adult life believing I could “do it”–whatever “it” might be.  One of the great deceptions of privilege is that we believe we can do what needs to be done in order to _____________ (fill in the blank: have a good life, resolve conflict, save children’s lives, have a successful career, heal brokenness, etc.).

Saying “I can’t” is a betrayal of our birth right.

Saying “I can’t” is an admission of failure.

Saying “I can’t” means one has given up.

At least, that’s how it feels looking down the years from where I sit at 50+.  And those feelings lead to a smoldering anger or a kind of depression as the weight of the impossible presses down.  I am convinced that this is the root of the so-called “mid-life crisis”:  waking up to the reality that it is not mine to “do”, even if I think I can (must).

Thinking about my grandson’s willingness to say “I can’t” reminds me that, while that is true, it is also true that I love him anyway. Not for what he does (says) or doesn’t do (say) but for who he is.  He can “be” a little boy and he is really good at that.  And in the “being” he does some pretty amazing things. He brings smiles and laughter and a sense of life full of possibility.  Those are possible for him in just being. They are good things.

Can a two and half year old be my role model?  In this he can and is. There is much I can’t do and the sooner I get around to ceasing to try, the healthier it will be for a lot of people, myself included.  But I can still “be” and, taking my grandson as an example, there is great value in that.


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