I’ve already told you about my dog Braille. In a blind dog, I saw the goodness of God’s care and provision for the broken things of this world. Through my own growing love and compassion for Braille, I realized that our weaknesses and neediness are not burdensome or repulsive to God. And that in fact, he uses our frailties to reveal himself to us. Little did I know that human frailty was something I was going to face in some profound ways.
In 2013, my son Andrew was diagnosed with a disease that is gradually causing him to lose his vision. When the diagnosis came, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt sick to my stomach as hundreds of implications for his life began to sink in. What dreams would he no longer be able to fulfill? He wanted to be a baseball player or maybe an astronaut. Such things were no longer possible. He wouldn’t be able to ride a bike, learn to drive, or likely live on his own. What would his future be like? Then there was the question of being prepared. “Lord,” I prayed, “I am not equipped to parent a child with this disease. I am the wrong person. I lack the knowledge, skills, and resources to help him. Lord, you’ve given this child the wrong parents. We are incompetent!”
I was quickly baptized into learning what it meant to be the parent of a child with a long term disability. I was now a member of a club that no one is excited to join. I repeatedly asked myself: How could I ever be what he needs? I am not being humble when I say I am the worst person God could have picked for this task. Days need to be spent in hospitals for tests and I am someone who faints at the sight of blood. I am also not an assertive person. Parents of special needs kids have to be their child’s advocate, to be uncomfortably assertive and tenacious. I was not up for the task. We are a large family with two working parents and limited time, energy, and resources. How and why would God think this was possible? There are so many others who are more competent to manage this than me.
And then, how could I tell him? How would I explain to my son that he has a condition that will take his vision away? I was afraid that he would question God and his goodness, and that he might become bitter and angry. I worried that the innocence of his trust in God would be corrupted by his suffering.
However, when God calls us to do something, he also equips us for it. I watched events unfold that demonstrated that he was already at work and knew exactly what he was doing when he allowed Andrew to face this affliction. As we began adjusting to the diagnosis and pursuing resources for Andrew, we saw that the way God uniquely wired him was a resource in itself. Andrew is logical and gifted with figuring things out. For a visually impaired individual, using adaptive technology is a lifeline to communicating with others and becoming self-sufficient. Andrew has a natural propensity for it and took to it easily. Educational facilities and teaching hospitals would smile when he came in because he was so much fun to work with and often showed them how to operate equipment when they forgot! They would brag about how well he was doing, and I watched him beam with pride.
But it all culminated for me on a Sunday afternoon when Andrew was recounting what was taught in Sunday school class that morning. They had discussed the passage in John 9 where the disciples asked Jesus why the blind man was born blind. I cringed as he began talking, wondering how it was handled (many did not yet know of his condition). When he finished talking about the lesson, I asked, “So, what do you take away from the story?” He replied, “Well, I learned that God can take even my disability and use it for good… for his glory. God doesn’t waste anything.”
It brought tears to my eyes. I had not yet used the word disability with him. I had not yet figured out how to help him grasp a good God while experiencing a crippling disease. While I struggled to know how I would speak to my son, God was already doing so and using my son to speak back to me! Andrew was modeling to me that God sees. God is not silent, distant, or uninvolved. He was already working, showing me the benefits of how he wired this boy, and using medical staff, Sunday school teachers, and others to demonstrate that he was present and very engaged.
God knew. He knew that Andrew’s intellect and natural aptitude with technology equipped him for the challenges he would face with this disability. God sees. He knew Andrew’s positive outlook and natural curiosity would help him to use equipment and learn to read braille. God had prepared Andrew for such a time as this.
But then there was still me. Not only did I feel ill-equipped, my thoughts still hovered around the loss I felt. As parents, we want the best for our children. We want to see them thrive and succeed and be all that they can be. I grieved, fearing that this would not be the case for Andrew, or so I thought. And I grieved for all the ways it would impact me and my parenting. I was discouraged by what I would have to learn and the ways in which my life would have to change. It brought out all of my insecurities and weaknesses. I feared that I could not serve him the way he would need to be served.
At some point, I was reminded of this verse: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). So I prayed. My prayer went something like this. “I will boast in my weakness that the power of Christ may be perfected in my life, my parenting, and my son. Though I do not want this for my child, for myself, or for our family…. Lord, let your power shine through our brokenness, and vulnerabilities.” I prayed and prayed—and I began to see God work.
God knew. He knew he would be stretching me and calling me to trust in ways I was not equipped for. He knew it would challenge me to be more assertive. He knew it would shake my confidence but he wanted to show me that can I rest in trusting that he is good and will be my provision. God is up to something good in my life, though it is very challenging. He is also up to something good in Andrew’s life and will continue to use Andrew and who he is—all for his glory.
Once again God has shown me how he sees brokenness. He is not put off by it. Instead he uses it in his plans to reveal himself to us and draw us closer to him. We do not face the future alone. Just as God gave Braille a loving family to care for him, God gives us himself. Our response is to trust him, even when we cannot see.