Monday, May 20, 2013

The High Calling of a Special Needs Parent

There's no doubt that it takes only a few weeks into parenting a child with unique challenges for us to realize the high demands of a special needs parent.  But how much time do we ever stop to think about the high calling of a special needs parent?  It is so easy for us to get bogged down with the difficult parts that perhaps we miss the fact that God has called each of us a to a remarkable set of purposes and plans.

To discover these traits of our calling, we need to look no further than our Bibles.  We are called to:
  1. Know that God loves us, and that He has a purpose and plan for our lives.  "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future," Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) tells us.  Without fully realizing how very much we are loved and what good intentions God has for us, we are unable to see the remainder of the Lord's high calling for us.  It's not unusual for parents in our position to sometimes feel that our Maker might have plans to harm us.  Yet, when we come to know and accept that He truly wants nothing but the best for us, we come face-to-face with our high calling.
  2. Speak what you learned from #1 into your children's lives.  Our children can too often be battered by school bullies, unreasonable adults, their own internal craving to belong.  When our precious kids are feeling worthless and hopeless, our high calling is to pour the truth we've learned from God into them.  Comforting our children with the value and the hope that the Lord has a purpose and plan uniquely designed for them can help them see a way out of the darkness of the things they face.
  3. Reflect God's glory to a hurting world around you.  When people see the adversity we face and watching us happily worshiping God in spite of it, they stand up and take notice.  Parents like us have every reason, by the world's standards, to have a bad attitude and the bad behavior that goes with it.  Yet, when they hear us praising the Lord, and sharing the boundless ways he has blessed us, it turns their standards on their heads, in a positive way.  In this way, we meet the high calling of reflecting God's glory.
  4. Edify other parents.  Mark 2:1-5 describes this, "A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'” (NIV)  Of course, we know that when questioned by the Pharisees about His authority to forgive sin, Jesus then commanded the man who was paralyzed to get up and walk.  The act of kindness executed by the four friends carrying the stretcher in this story is known as "The Fellowship of the Mat".  How many times we watch other parents who are paralyzed by their struggle raising a child with special needs!  Like the four men in Mark 2, it is our high calling to carry them to Jesus when they are unable to carry themselves.
  5. Bring an awareness to the church.  Sadly, the modern Christian church has often become like an exclusive club.  As one mother told me, "They talk a good talk, but in practicality, not so much."  If I had a dollar for every parent of a child on the Autism spectrum who has been asked to leave a church, it breaks my heart to say that I would be a rich woman.  Even so, our high calling is to bring an awareness of Christ's mandate to love the weak and the sick.  Since most seminaries offer no training to pastors in ministering to those with a special needs or diff-abilities, our loving nudges and living example should not relent in transforming our faith communities.
  6. Advocate in a godless world.  This is a dark culture where transplants are denied to children because they have disabilities, or where 90% of infants prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted.  I love the 1966 translation of the Jerusalem Bible which states God's high calling so well, "This may be a wicked age, but your lives should redeem it." (Ephesians 5:16)  We parents of children with special needs are called to be a light in this dark age.  Merely living our lives with joy makes people rethink the notion that a life with difficulties is not a life worth living.  Our ordinary existence can assure people that every life has value.
These are ingredients that comprise the high calling of a special needs parent.  Every day we are invited to it afresh.  Live it well today, friends.

PRAY:  Majestic God, you have assigned me an incredible purpose by allowing special needs into our lives.  Holy Spirit, help me live up to the tasks you have set before me.  Jesus, show me how to love as you love.  Make my life an eloquent invitation for people to place their hope and joy in You.  

1 comment:

  1. truly sad any child on the Autism spectrum has been asked to leave a church. Guess its the snowball from what I've seen as people mis understanding someone with the smallest of difficulties on the spectrum to a point a child wouldnt feel included. how do we help people understand and teach our children to defend themselves?