“But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.”
Psalm 103: 17-18
As parents, we often think a lot about how our children are going to be perceived by those around us. And as parents of special needs children, that line of thinking can many times paralyze our best efforts to move forward on the path God has laid in front of us because it does not seem to be going in a direction that would lead to anything beneficial for our children’s future.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have learned that I understand very few things God is doing when I am in the thick of them. And even though I know it is not my job to figure God’s ways out, but rather just trust, obey, and find peace on my path, I am also so very thankful that God always takes the time to help me look back and appreciate all He has done for me and my family through past experiences. Experiences that have been completely wrapped in His great love and good intentions, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
One of those “looking back” reminders came in the form of a letter I received a few years ago from a mother who had observed my boys at a board game tournament they had attended with her son. It still brings me to tears as I read her words and how she perceived my sons.
I just wanted to send you a note to tell you how wonderful Thomas and Timothy were on Saturday at the tournament.
Timothy was such a trooper. He was agreeable, helpful, kind, flexible, and cheerful. I really appreciated his willingness to play a game he’d never played before so that none of the other kids had to sit out a round, as well as how pleasant he was to all his opponents. Really a great kid.
Thomas was a bit more reserved than Timothy, but I found him to be mature, responsible, humble, and kind to everyone. My husband asked me to tell you that he partially overheard Thomas disputing the rules with another player and was quite impressed with how he handled it. Rohn said that Thomas was polite and respectful through the discussion . . . and that he hopes our boy turns out to be as nice a teenager as Thomas is.
After reading that letter I could have gotten so puffed up about my child-rearing techniques, if that really had been the catalyst to how my boys had become such wonderful young men. But rather, I was greatly humbled as I read the above email and realized my boys had developed that character with very little directed effort on my part. Yes, I have spent many hours on my knees praying for them and redirecting them to the ways of the Lord, but really the greatest mechanisms that have been used by God to shape my boys have been the difficult circumstances of their past.
Here is the response email I sent that will further explain what I mean.
I can’t tell you what a blessing your email was to receive. To have looked at the circumstances our boys have gone through these past 10 years, one would not come to the conclusion they’d have produced the wonderful teenagers my husband and I enjoy every day. At the age of 5, Thomas was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, asked not to return to the private school he was attending for his first grade year, and was extremely depressed due to all of the heartache and rejection he was experiencing both at school and in church. But due to the grace of God I started home schooling him, found out the cause of his sensory issues (which were the cause of his Asperger tendencies), and walked him through his depression as I was too healing from my own issues with depression and getting a counseling certificate from the American Association of Christian Counselors.
Fast forward to just over 18 months ago when Timothy’s depression issues started escalating due to the additional chaos our home had from adding three foster children with extreme special needs. Then fast forward to only 8 short months ago when things really came to a head and he was ready to take his own life, the tipping point which in turn finally led him to accept his need for God to lead him out of the pit of despair. Thus, he too has found healing from his depression and we have a completely different (and completely joyful in the Lord) teen.
As I said above, the circumstances that have been a large part of molding our boys are not typically what you pray for to come into anyone’s life, but we feel very blessed at how God has used them to mold the wonderful teens we have a privilege to parent.
I am pretty sure the woman I sent this response to was not a Christian, and she has probably never thought of even wishing a difficult circumstance into her son’s life to in turn have him “be as nice a teenager as” my sons were that day. And yet I found myself all the more praising God for those valleys that my boys have walked, where they encountered some of the greatest lessons taught in our home school, and in turn have shaped their godly characters beyond anything a book could have taught them.
It is not far-fetched in saying that each of us find difficult circumstances hard to bear. Our first and natural response to pain is usually avoidance. But in avoiding circumstances just to relieve pain, we also pass up the opportunity to grow in our personal character as well as allow God to work miracles in and around us as only He can. Living for God means fearing Him alone; not what others are going to say about us, our children, our home schooling efforts, or even our day to day family life.
With God all things are good and meant to be made their best when looked at in the light of eternity. As Christians we are called to not only believe that truth, but also to act in accordance with it, trusting God through all the difficult bumps He allows on our road and on the roads He puts before our children. Don’t put off seeking out God in the difficult places of life while letting go of what you think others may be saying about your efforts. It is in those dark corners that there is great treasure to be found, and a watching world looking for proof that living the way the Lord leads us is the ultimate way to really live the fruitful life they are searching for–for themselves and the ones they love.