Y’all know I’m a sucker for a good story. I love a beginning that engages me; a middle that is suspenseful, painful, hopeful and all the things that real life is; and an ending that is meaningful—not necessarily happy, as there can be plenty of meaning found in places one might never call happy—but closure that I can live with in light of who the characters really are and the kind of future I can imagine for them.
I think everyone loves a good story. In many ways, our lives are a played out narrative of what we believe about ourselves and the world we live in.
This story, our story, is a story about reckoning.
Reckoning is a strange thing. To learn something, discover something, accept something, it divides your life into two distinct pieces: before the reckoning, and after the reckoning. Last week our family, in many ways, reckoned with something we had suspected, maybe even feared, for many months. Our little guy, two years old and full of goodness in every way, was put in a really big category that he’ll spend his life, one way or another, defined by.
The honest truth is that I am relieved. For many months we have been waiting, watching, treating this precious boy more like a research project than a child, and it’s been exhausting. When you are wondering if you are looking at a developmental delay versus a developmental disorder, everything, everything goes in to a score column for one or the other. Every good day, every smile with good eye contact, every time he looks up when you call his name, every new word, all of it putting points into the he’ll be fine category. And then the humming, the awful sound of his head against a door, the babbles coming from his mouth trying to form words but just can’t, the vocabulary lost, the recent weeks of regression, all of it tallying in the column that we don't want to look at. And yet, we have to.
We don’t have a specific label, or an official diagnosis, or a doctor or therapist telling us what our sweet boy will and will not be able to do as he grows. None of those things feel important right now, and I don’t know if or when they will. What we do have is a collection of discussions with a lot of people and professionals who care about this boy, using the words we have been holding at a distance and gently encouraging us to lean in to them. We have learned in the last few months that social communicative disorders are categorized as a spectrum because, well, that is truly what they look like when each precious soul fighting one is lined up. We’ve got a smart, sweet little man who has a ton of strengths and some significant struggles, and we are working through each one as they emerge. But we have so much more to learn. So much. We’ve ordered the books and scheduled the meetings and learned that when God tells us to ask him each day for what we need to get through just that day, we have to truly believe in enough for that day.
But let’s get back to the story about reckoning, because that’s the really good part.
When we realized that God was going to be asking something very hard of us as parents (and he asks hard things of everyone), we had to get real clear about who we believe He is. CJ Mahaney once said that, “You need your best theology in your darkest hours.” And that was certainly true for us. But if there is anything I can say without a doubt God has been teaching my husband and me over the last year it is that his character is unfathomable, holy, and good. He has been preparing us for this in ways we could not have imagined even six months ago. We never questioned if God loved us, or if he loved our little boy, because we know the cross answers that without a doubt. We also know that there is nothing God allows that he cannot use for his glory, even the special needs of children—maybe especially the special needs of children. And we haven’t had to wrestle at all with “why” because we know “Who” and believe in the story He has been writing since he separated the dark from the light. He has been so good to us to lift our eyes off of our circumstances and let them land on Him, on the one who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us.
One needs only to spend a short time in scripture to know that it is a story of redeemed suffering. Joseph, Abraham, Job, Jeremiah, the bleeding woman, Jesus, Paul, and hundreds of others held together by their hope of future glory. No matter what brings suffering on, all of it is covered by the blood of Jesus; every single moment of longing for heaven was answered on the cross, and we get to cling to Him as we wait for the glory that is to be revealed to us—what a privilege.
And while reckoning does bring about a certain amount of, let’s call it comfortable acceptance, it certainly doesn’t make this easy. In fact, I am still a hot mess as I write this. There are a handful of people who have had to quite literally wipe tears from eyes in the last two weeks, and I've been keeping a whole crew of friends at an arm's length because I'm not sure what to say. My husband and I sat in the office in our home the other night and asked questions of one another that no parent wants to think about; questions about the future, questions about school and adolescence and all the what ifs that will kill you if you let them take over. We are not confident in much; but we are confident that we cannot do this apart from total dependence on God. We simply do not know what comes next, only what comes today. But since tomorrow has enough worries of its own, we’re doing our best to camp here and remember the daily bread.
I wrote before about the peace I have that this story has a perfect start, and will have a perfect ending. I still believe that to my bones. Right now we are in that middle, living the suspenseful, painful, and hopeful moments that real life is; waiting for an ending that is meaningful—not necessarily happy in this world, as there can be plenty of meaning found in places one would never call happy—but the closure we long for in light of who God is and the kind of future he has prepared for us.
And as we wait, we get to raise the absolute sweetest boy on earth. I mentioned that in one way or another he will be defined by this struggle, and he will, but we are praying boldly that he defies it in the process. I hope you all get to meet him one day; he’ll melt your heart.
“In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.” Isaiah 26:8