All good storytelling must come with a good beginning. It’s the hook, the grabber, the attention-getter that really gives us the stamina to stay in the story. It’s true when you read them; I think it is even truer when you live them.
This story didn’t start six months ago, when we knew our sweet boy should be saying more, babbling more, mimicking more. It didn’t start on Christmas, when his zone out episodes were so pronounced they prompted a doctor appointment and an EEG as soon as possible. And the story didn’t start last week, when five ladies with clipboards watched his every move, noting where he failed and where he succeeded; when they asked me to fill out paperwork quantifying everything he does into never, sometimes, always categories. And the story didn’t even start when they told me there were “significant deficiencies present,” that a lot of therapy would begin immediately, but also that, “we don’t want to overwhelm you, so we won’t say more, for now.”
This story starts with our perfect God. Immeasurable. Incalculable. Incomprehensible. Every story starts with Him. And He is writing each one with the aim of pointing to his glory. Every single one. Even the ones I probably would have written differently; even my little boy’s story.
That doesn’t mean this is easy. In fact, watching my child struggle, hearing what people think, learning a new language and what it all means for our family, and fighting back the urge to explain to everyone who is around that my quiet two-year old is the sweetest two year old on the planet! is actually the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I want to grab the ladies with the clipboards and tell them all the things he is so, so good at; how swings and slides and Dora make him the happiest boy on earth. I want to tell them that he’s fast, that he has his daddy’s running calves and I think he’ll probably set a state record in the mile someday. I want everyone to see him grab my face and give me a kiss, how he purses his lips and puckers up like he means it. I want everyone to watch him snuggle with me, because he loves to pull his knees up, tuck his arms in, and get cozy on my chest; the same position he spent the first few weeks of his life in. But I can’t get them to look up from their box checking, from the story they are writing about him. I know, it’s their job and we all need this, he needs this. But I cannot say this is easy.
It’s not easy when my little guy pinches and bites because he can’t yet say “no” or “mine” or any other toddler phrase to indicate he’s not ok. It’s terribly hard to explain to other mamas I barely know that he doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body; he is just learning how to behave with what he has in his tool box. My heart is screaming that I’m trying every hour of the day to help him fill that toolbox, I am! He’s a good boy; I’m trying to be a good mom, really! But that’s not what anyone wants to hear, not as they comfort their own child and examine the bite mark mine left. So I just apologize again and again, worrying too much about what they think. No, this part, the middle of the story, is not easy. Most good stories have some hard.
So I am reminding myself daily that every great story does not start with the hard, but with the Perfect. When the story starts with Perfect, we get a different story altogether; one that is never so hard that redemption can’t be woven through each chapter.
I do not know what is ahead for my little guy. I know there will be challenges, and I expect more weeks of near-constant tears on my end. I know there will also be victories, that he will learn a new word and we will cheer him on like he won a gold medal. I anticipate a good week, then a bad week, then a madder-than-hell week and a bursting with gratitude week. I imagine a lot of repentance, and at times, a desperate longing for home… not this one. Aren’t we all longing for our real home, though?
But what I do know is that this story will end the same way it started: with our Perfect God. And I don’t want to miss one second of the glory that my little boy’s life might give to Him. Not one second. Who am I to wish away anything that would make much of Jesus? Isn’t that is what we are here for in the first place?
So no, the story doesn’t start with challenge, or diagnoses, or developmental delays and missed milestones. It doesn’t start with tears or feelings of failure. It doesn’t start with unknown or wondering or hoping and praying that all the therapy results in making up these deficiencies. It will include all of those things, and we will have to learn how to live each and every one of them. But they will all help us get to the ending, the Perfect ending.
The uncertainty of this story is both impossibly hard and going to be fine, and it is both of those things at the same time. I don’t know what will happen, but I know that the worst thing that could happen would be missing Jesus in all of it. The paradoxes of walking with a perfect Savior in a far from perfect world are many; there is a very real tension of wanting so many things for our children but wanting one thing for them above everything. But this story, this may be exactly how God is getting us to that one thing, to Him. To Perfect.
For each one of us, all of our lives are bookended with Perfection; a single sentence in the big story between Eden and a New Earth. And I can’t think of one thing that would make the in-between more worth living fully, for His glory, than knowing that.
*A note from Katie: I prayed for three days before publishing this essay; it's a big deal to tell the world that your child, someone you love more than life, is struggling. But I've never known how to do anything in my writing but be honest, and when you stare at a good, good God for that long, every story that makes you cling to Him seems worth telling. We have no shame or stigma associated with Cannon's journey or the therapy he will continue doing; he is a happy, healthy, joy-to-parent little boy. And we just want God to get the glory for the perfect gift he has given us in our family.