Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Spiritual Seasons of Special Needs Parenthood

I want loving-kindness and not a gift to be given in worship. I want people to know God instead of giving burnt gifts. 
~ Hosea 6:6, NLV ~  

No one can beat up on a mother like herself.  Looking at other women, comparing herself to their perceived competence or excellence, so many moms do Satan's job of self-defeat quite handily.  Mothers can agonize over whether they are engaging in enough fun activities for their child, cooking enough creative and nutritious meals for the family, guiding their child in spiritual growth with enough wisdom or diligence, and when special needs are in the mix, making right medical decisions for their child's well-being.  And these are just the concerns that involve her children!

Turn that introspection towards her own spiritual growth, and the mother of a child with special needs' expectations can be incredibly unrealistic.  A parent can become overwhelmed by feelings of defeat seeking to chase that elusive dream of daily, uninterrupted quiet hours in prayer and study of the Bible.  An erroneous sense of self-condemnation can grow when a parent puts unreasonable spiritual demands on him or herself.

While it may look a bit different in fathers from the way it reveals itself in mothers, men are no less susceptible to these self-imposed pressures.  Dads are notorious for lofty expectations when it comes to their jobs or passing traditions on to their sons.  When special needs are a part of that mix, a man, while often less emotional, still feels pressed to make his spiritual life look like what he perceives as healthy.

The interesting thing is that these harsh self-expectations are counter to everything that God tells us in His word.  The Lord is much more concerned about our heart condition and our desire for relationship with Him than He is about how many minutes we spend each day in uninterrupted Bible study.  Here are some of the things He tells us:
  • ... People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV)
  • Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people. (Colossians 3:23, GNT)
  • So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship. (Romans 12:1, NCV)
  • Certainly you do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it;
    you do not desire a burnt sacrifice.
    The sacrifices God desires are a humble spirit—
    O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject. (Psalms 51:16-17, NET)
What do these verses and our featured verse for today's devotion demonstrate?  The spiritual practice of daily quiet time with the Lord is good, but God is more concerned with our spiritual intimacy with Him than He is about how that intimacy occurs.  He understands that there are spiritual seasons of a parent's life.  He does not count against us our lack of quiet morning devotions when a child is hospitalized or we have been up with them half the night. While this is a goal to aspire to, we are not less because we are unable to engage in this daily practice.

During those spiritual seasons where the interruptions or demands are high and the quiet time is nearly non-existent, I can foster my spiritual intimacy with my Maker by...
  1. Praying in the shower.  It may sound crazy, but it can often be the only place I find myself alone.  Much to my surprise, a wise old pastor of mine once confirmed that there is something deeply spiritual, almost a physical ritual of our sin being washed away, when we pray in the shower.
  2. Praying over and with my children as I drive them places.  Confident that the Lord means what He says when He promises that His word will not return to Him void, I pray Scripture and His promises for my children to hear in the car.  This can create calm when the kids are anxious or squabbling, and it creates a great tone before we part company.
  3. Intentionally spending time in a brief devotional before bed.  It may not be the large feast on God's word that I would prefer, but I am leaving a powerful meditation on my mind as my last conscious thought of the day.  This more easily evokes thoughts of my awesome Maker the minute my alarm wakes me in the morning.
  4. Offering "popcorn prayers" as I carry out my daily duties.  I have been known to regularly pray as I clean the kitchen, "Lord, this is my spiritual act of worship to You," or "I am cleaning this house for You, Lord."  Singing worship songs as I go along makes anything I do in the demands of my daily life a sacrifice of praise to my King.
Aspiring to deep, meaningful time in God's word, listening to His Holy Spirit promptings, and sharing the most intimate thoughts of our souls are most admirable goals.  Yet, we are no less to Him when we are in a season of life that does not afford us these larger pieces of time.  Seek to be creative in developing your spiritual intimacy with the Lord, even when the IEP is looming, or the surgery is scheduled, or the sleeplessness is making it hard to function.  It may not look quite the same, but these various and colorful seasons still display the manifold ways our Loving Maker touches us with unmatchable affection.

PRAY:  Father, remind me to stop doing the accuser's work for him.  Show me new ways to grow in closeness to you even when the demands of caring for my child don't allow for chunks of quiet time.  No matter what my circumstances, I want to grow in love and friendship with You, God.

~Barb Dittrich 

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF


    1. Really like your practical suggestions Barb--especially the praying in the shower one! Thanks for the great ideas:)

    2. Love the practical ideas Barb! Especially like the idea of praying in the shower:) THANKS!

    3. Helping your child develop a daily prayer life is one of the greatest gifts parents can do.
      Spiritual thoughts

    4. praying is very important to all of us. we need to talk to him everyday to seek guidance.
      Spiritual Thoughts