This past weekend I had the incredible blessing of serving at an event that is very dear to my heart. This amazing event pampered 140 moms and wives whose lives have been transformed by either a special needs child or a special needs husband. These women were served an eloquent lunch, and then offered services such as massages, makeup, hair and nails, all in an attempt to celebrate these incredible women by giving them a day where they were the ones being served, pampered and loved on.
When a friend suggested that I attend this event I immediately knew God was calling me to serve at it instead. It’s true I do have a son with special needs and it would have been nice to be on the receiving end of a little pampering but I don’t think I could have made the amazing connections with these spectacular women had I been on the other end of it. When I inquired about serving I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing or how I’d be able to give of my time. I’m not very good at doing makeup so I surely wouldn’t want to send these woman home looking like they just left clown class. I am way better at doing my own hair than I am at doing other people’s hair. In fact, My daughter actually says she feels like she’s going to throw up every time I do her hair. I didn’t want to put that to the test to see if this is an isolated incident or if I could possibly make others feel the urge to hurl by simply touching their hair. I am no masseuse so that was out of the questions. However, I have always enjoyed doing my own nails and felt I could offer this service so I packed up all my nail accessories and prayed God would shower me with His favor as I decorated the nails of His precious daughters.
As these women walked up and we began to talk they seemed eager to share their stories, show their pictures and welcome me into their lives. I talked about my own son who has special needs and that seemed to somehow relax them as they realized I understood their struggles, fears, and doubts. As I did life with these women for the next few hours a theme began to emerge. One that I knew very well. One that I had struggled with just years prior. One that still tries to creep its way into my thoughts every now and then. Each woman in her own way expressed her deep sorrow over broken dreams.
Luke 13:10-13 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.
The gospel according to Luke tells us the parable about a crippled woman in the synagogue who was healed by Jesus on the Sabbath. There are a few things about this text that I find very interesting and strikingly similar to the emotions that these women were expressing to me on Saturday. First, it says that this crippled woman was bent over and unable to straighten up and had been this way for 18 years. Can you imagine walking around every day seeing nothing but the dirt? Not being able to see the faces of those you so badly desire to connect with. While the text doesn’t specifically talk about the hopelessness of this woman one can only assume it was there. Not being able to lift your eyes up to the heavens surely must have ushered a ton of negative thoughts into her mind. After all, all she could see was dirt. Secondly, Jesus desired to free this woman from all that held her down. He didn’t ask for anything in return or tell her she needed to do this or that in order to receive His healing. His love for her is what drove him to heal her.
When we allow ourselves to focus on the dirt in our lives, our eyes become fixated on the battle instead of on the blessing. We see all that is wrong and broken but struggle to see what is standing right before us inviting us to straighten up and offer praise unto the Lord. Each of the women that I spoke to in one way or another mentioned that one of the hardest things for them was letting go of their dreams. The dream of having a perfect family, the perfect husband and perfect kids. The one that says 2.5 kids is “the norm” and if you have a white picket fence to go along with that handsome husband and beautiful healthy babies then you’ve somehow accomplished success in your life. But then you hear those unexpected words. That ugly diagnosis that just doesn’t fit into your dream.
To name just a few. Suddenly all the dreams you had for your child have shifted and your biggest concerns are now wrapped around getting through the next medical procedure, introducing new medications, or worrying about how you’ll be able to afford to properly care for a child with special needs. I have been there my sweet, sweet friend. I had to mourn all the dreams I had for my son. I had big dreams for him but that’s just it, they were my dreams for him. He doesn’t care about any of the things that I once thought he’d accomplish. Being a doctor, a lawyer or the next captain of the Detroit Red Wings. He actually doesn’t like doctors very much, and the first and only time I took him to a Red Wings game he cried because it was too loud and begged me to leave the game with a tied score in the 3rd period. Insert pity here!
I spent the first 13 years of my son’s life trying to get him to fit the mold of what society said he should be. I parented him according to how I thought he should be and not according to who he actually was. The most beautiful thing happened when I buried my dreams for him; suddenly I began to see his dreams shine through. I had unintentionally and unknowingly been smothering his dreams by trying to get him to be the son I thought he should be. There was love behind my motives but it gave way to disastrous results. I saw more meltdowns, we had more arguments, and I began to avoid certain social situations because I felt judged and embarrassed. While other parents were reporting the milestones of their children I was struggling to understand daily meltdowns, temper tantrums and his socially awkward behavior.
Years ago I took my kids to a work picnic where a bike was being raffled off. Boy did my son want that bike. He had no concept of how many other boys wanted that same bike so when the ticket was pulled and the number read and it wasn’t his, he threw himself down on the ground began crying uncontrollably and kicking anything or anyone that came within reach. I was mortified as I watched my co-workers stare. I knew what they were thinking. Because they were thinking the same things I used to think when I saw an “out of control” child in public.
“Control you child”
“My child would NEVER behavior like that and get away with it”
“Isn’t he too old to be having temper tantrums?”
“What a spoiled brat”
“you just need to give him one good A@@ whipping, that would straighten him out”
What I didn’t know at the time was that my son had trouble processing information and that all I needed to do was walk him through the situation in detail which would usually prevent a meltdown. He needed to know what to expect, he needed to know that there was a possibility he might not win this bike he so desperately wanted. I also had no idea that being at a picnic with a hundred other people over stimulated him in ways he couldn’t manage on his own. I didn’t know that getting to know my son would teach me how to be a better parent. Because regardless of what I may have thought standing over him while he is having a “stimulation overload” saying “get up and stop misbehaving” is never going to bring about the results I was hoping for.
I don’t have it all figured out. I still see meltdowns and as a matter of fact my son had one yesterday that was so severe I had to skip church. But through all of this the one thing I can say is that I am no longer standing with my eyes fixed on the dirt. Jesus called me forward and said, “Woman, your are freed from your disability.” By the way, that boy who melted down yesterday told me something this morning that made my heart dance. Last night he prayed that he’d wake up in time to wish me a happy birthday before I left for work. I am blessed to have two of the greatest kids ever made and to think of what I would have missed out on if I would have continued to force them into molds they were never meant to fit into.
To all of you, amazing women and men who have been blessed to raise these extraordinary children keep your eyes on fixed on Him the only one who can see things as they should be, not as they are. Hand your precious child over to Him whose love is all encompassing, transcending, and everlasting and allow His hand to guide you, His light to guide your steps and His truth to free you from whatever keeps your eyes fixed on the dirt.
Are you a parent of a child with special needs? If so, I’d love to hear your story. Have you been fixing your eyes on the dirt instead of the designer? I invite you to pull up a chair at my table so we can dance through the storm together.