|Photo by Adam Foster|
Once there was a Virginia state delegate who made an incredibly thoughtless comment about disabled children being punishments to women who had aborted their first pregnancy. This left many of us wondering, "What sin, then, did I commit?" It left others thinking, "Then why do my adopted children, whose mothers chose life, have disabilities?" And it was, no doubt, a searing pain to the heart of those who have chosen abortion and are already bearing the emotional consequences. But this is not a post about that man. It is not a post about disabled children being a curse. I think that Jesus settled that question quite nicely when asked of the man born blind "Who sinned, this man or his parents?" His answer? Neither.
That question is settled in my mind. Instead, this post is about the flip side of the coin. This post is about all of the people who tell us we are blessed, we are strong, we are amazing because of some random trick of the genes, some accident, some collision of environmental factors that has given us the children we have. By this logic my sister-in-law with the autistic son is more blessed than I am with my Asperger's son. The parent of a child in a wheelchair is more blessed than the parent of the child who walks on legs of different lengths. All children are blessings. End of story. God didn't look at any of us and say "Wow, I really love them so I'm going to give them a child with special needs." Am I blessed by my son? Absolutely, but it is because he is my child, not because of anything he is or says or does.
Here's a secret for those who think we are so strong, so amazing, possessing some indefinable character trait that no one else has. We aren't. Sometimes we cry ourselves to sleep because we are exhausted from caring for our children, whether it is the endless round of caring for a child with severe physical needs or the emotional ups and downs of caring for a child whose brain just doesn't work like that of other children. Sometimes we wish for normalcy, and then feel guilty because we love our child and wonder if we have just wished away all that makes them most special, most lovable. We will always be just a little bit jealous of those who seem to sail through life with 'normal' children. The unknown of our child's future seems very big and very dark, how can we help our child navigate it when we don't know how ourselves?
No, we don't have any more strength than any other parent. We don't have a patience that appeared magically as a gift along with our child, it has been forged through trial and error just as the patience of every other parent is forged. What we have for our child is simply the thing that every parent is gifted with: Love. Crazy, wild, uninhibited love. Love that will keep on loving even when we want to cower in embarrassment because of something our child has said or done. Love that keeps on whispering "I love you" to our child long after other children are saying "Wuv oo" to their parents in the belief that someday they will repeat those beautiful words back to us. Love that forgives the tantrums, the meltdowns, the raging because we know in the end after all of the emotion is spent they will return to our arms.
Oh, to be loved with a crazy love like that! And you know what? We are! We are all God's special needs children, each with our own flaws, our own hangups. Sometimes we blurt out things that must surely embarrass him (I'm looking at you, aforementioned state delegate). Sometimes we rage and kick and scream. And yet he waits, patiently, lovingly for that moment when we come running back to his arms. Over and over he whispers to us "I love you." Day after day he waits for the moment we will turn to him and say without prompting "You know what, God? I love you too!" I know how I felt the day Gates first said "I love you" and I knew it wasn't just a parroting back of words. I know how it feels now when he says it nearly every day, when he spontaneously turns around and runs back to give me a hug. It's a crazy thing, this love that keeps on hoping, keeps on loving, keeps on forgiving.
That's all I have to offer, no special gifts, just crazy love. Love that is renewed every day because I know that I am also loved with the crazy, wild love of God.