We are all developmentally delayed.
Some of the most illuminating and enduring lessons learned about God’s grace and our relationship to Him and creation have been learned in the care and raising of my special needs son. John, who is approaching his 31st birthday, has been used time and time again to demonstrate through real life object lessons, the life of faith.
John is visiting us this week here in Jacksonville, to help us move and to get some time away with family. Hopefully, he will consider coming to live with us, but that is another story. Here are some of the things God has taught me using John:
Celebrate milestones. It is amazing how many things we watch our children go through that we more or less take for granted. Not to say we aren’t happy, but that they are not the causes they should be. John’s ‘first’ words were signed, and while that is a cause for celebration, the things that followed it and flowed from it were wonderful to us; potty training, school, being able to have him tell us what he wanted or needed.
Love unconditionally. There are people in John’s life who have hurt him. While he may get angry, they are like our afternoon thunderstorms. Appearing and then suddenly gone, he does not or maybe cannot hold a grudge. He has a love interest who flits like a butterfly from him to others, but he still loves her. He is heartbroken when she pays attention to someone else, but he is always willing to give her another chance.
Obedience is better than sacrifice. John, who sometimes has the mind of a 6 yr old doesn’t like to do things at all or when they are necessary. Many of them are for his health and safety. He will fuss and fume, but he usually will cooperate and take his meds, or a shower, or not go back for that third dish of ice cream. As described above, he usually quickly gets over the petulance, and goes back to being his happy-go-lucky self. He also does not worry over anything. He will tell when he’s hungry or thirsty or sleepy, but is content to let someone (parent or other authority) handle the details. The only thing he is worried about is other people; not what they think, but how they are doing.
Satisfied and pleased are two different things in God’s eyes. Like all parents, when John came around my imagination was filled with all the great deeds and exploits he would accomplish, and the glory I would vicariously receive by being his father. Once I realized that ship had sailed I was astonished to find a better one coming into port. I realized that while he would probably not accomplish any of those feats, I was still overwhelmingly pleased with him for the success he does enjoy. God is like that too, He knows we will never be all that He is and satisfy all the designs He has for us here on earth, but he is pleased with our efforts and our love and obedience.
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