Friday, April 17, 2015
A Mockingbird in the Hand of the Lord
“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” Isaiah 46:3-4 ESV
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Psalm 138:7-8 ESV
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.” Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
My twelve-year-old and I just finished Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. It was a poignant read amidst the current reports of police brutality and the resultant climate of fear and frustration. I have five black sons, and before the summer is out, I’ll have three teenagers and a young adult. As the debate rages and blame is slung back and forth, this mother’s heart wrestles with the temptation to fear for her boys. Admittedly, I’ve been the overprotective parent—I’ve homeschooled, spread out vaccinations, and avoided gluten and artificial ingredients. I’ve insisted on good diction, perfect manners, pristine attire, clean fingernails. After an incident in Minneapolis, I now discreetly insert myself between my boys and any group of young men that look like trouble. My husband and I have taught them the rules loving black parents share with their children and pray to God they remember when confronted by law enforcement and the adrenaline is flowing: hands where they can be seen, no sudden moves, absolute compliance, no resistance.
Then, there’s Daniel. Innocent, naïve, and vulnerable, he’s our mockingbird.
Daniel is moderately autistic. At 15, he’s a brilliant musician, and under the tutelage of a patient and skilled piano teacher, we’re coming to see just how gifted he really is. He’s also a fantastic visual artist. His music and artwork are the ways he best interacts with the world. When we came to recognize his artistic bent, we enrolled him in adaptive theater programs and watched him shine on the stage. But attempt to have a conversation with him one-on-one, and he falls near silent, with an averted gaze. He has definite thoughts and opinions, but it takes a gentle voice to coax out a single sentence. Grow angry with him or frighten him, and he’ll literally roar like the dinosaurs that preoccupy his thoughts. At least once a week, the scenario plays out in my mind—some dangerous situation, someone yelling commands. I’ve got a script ready, and I rehearse it to be sure I can get it out fast enough: He’s autistic, he’s harmless, he can’t answer when you’re shouting! It’s not likely to happen, I know. Yet it is not entirely an irrational fear. Reports abound of those with disabilities facing violence, arrest, even death because they are mistakenly perceived as threats.
As a believer, the Word of God reminds me that there are greater realities that must guide my thoughts and override my fears for my son. Isaiah 46:3-4 and Psalm 138:7-8 reveal God’s personal involvement in the lives of his people from the womb to old age. Isaiah gives the intimate image of his carrying his people (whether or not they are aware of him). He says, “I have made, and I will bear.” He will continue a pattern of faithful guidance and defense throughout their lives. He will preserve them not only as a people, but individually. He has individual knowledge of and plans for his people, and so David declares his confidence: “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.” Throughout the life of the child of God, the hand of the Lord preserves and protects: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.” The purposes of the Lord for each of his children ultimately prevail, and his love culminates in the imperishable inheritance of salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ.
There is no doubt that Daniel faces a challenging future, and there may be real dangers ahead compounded by his disabilities. More real than what is observable in news reports is the hidden truth of God’s intimate involvement in Daniel’s life across his lifespan. “[T]hough God be the God of the close of our life, yet he is also the God of its beginning,” says C.H. Spurgeon. Over the years, as the parent of a child with special needs, I have come to terms with what author, Krista Horning, describes as God’s good design in disability. What I must trust is that his good design works itself out in a God-directed life that serves his purposes even in weakness. I see evidence of God’s grace upon Daniel’s life, particularly in his prayers, and I believe that the Lord is working out his plan of redemption in his life.
For certain, my husband and I will continue to prepare Daniel to better handle stressful and dangerous situations. But more important, we will cover him with prayer, acknowledging that the safest place for him is in the hand of the Lord. We pray for protection, but we must be as vigilant in praying for his salvation and in exposing him to the gospel. And we, too, must come to rest in what is true: the sovereign goodness of the Lord, his faithful care and love for his children, and his ever-present help in trouble. “[He] will carry and will save.”