Autism. Diagnosis code 299.00
Our toddler could barely walk when his future ran out on him. The slippery slope from diagnosis to the dissolution of dreams is steep and cruel. Regardless how rare a child’s condition, the heart of every special-needs parent tumbles into a universal pit of despair,
“He may never speak. He won’t have friends.”
“He can’t go to college, He won’t have a job.”
“He can’t get married. He won’t have a family.”
Ironically, we live in Silicon Valley, where start-up pluck, uber-excellence and virtuosity are de rigueur. It’s standard fare that parents are desperate to get kids into top-notch colleges like Stanford, a high-paying job in tech, a sparkling new Tesla, and season tickets to the Warriors, where they can post selfies tagged #BLESSED
What about us? What will our child’s life amount to if he can’t talk, connect, compete or contribute, like everyone else? Is there any other way to a blessed life?
The Way, Truth and Life
Many years ago, lived a young woman whose motherhood didn’t pan out how she expected, either. Engaged to a respectable carpenter, she looked forward to a quiet life of domestic bliss—and a lifetime supply of good furniture— until an angel of the Lord appeared to hijack her plans. “Highly favored” by God, she found herself the equivalent of a teenage unwed mom.
And her child? He was birthed amidst animal filth and grew up in a remote, obscure town. Not particularly handsome and frequently misunderstood, he often referred to “a kingdom not of this world’ and “food you know nothing of.” His temperament suggested an otherworldly nature; perhaps his own family and neighbors thought him peculiar.
He never married or raised a family. His closest friends ditched him when it got too uncomfortable to be associated with him. He never went to college or owned a home. His career only lasted three years, until he was falsely accused and died the ignoble, gruesome death of a shamed criminal.
This was God’s beloved Son, with whom He was well pleased. And his mother, “The most blessed of women”? A sword would pierce her soul, too.
Clearly, God defines favor and blessings far differently than I would.
Kingdom Currency, Disabled, Not Discounted
In every metric of adult achievement, Jesus “failed.” At his baptism, the heavens opened to herald His arrival—the closest He ever came to a graduation ceremony–yet our world esteemed Him not.
He had no servants, yet He was deferred to as Master; No degree, yet He was called Teacher; No armies, yet He conquered the world. No one else overturned death and ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God. No one else has been a Savior.
If the greatest commandment is to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” then Jesus set the gold standard for incomparable success: Eternal glory despite a glaring deficiency of earthly credentials.
Our children, too, can love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind. They can know God and be known by Him. Children are valuable because they are loved. They need not establish utilitarian value to prove their worth. We cherish them for no other reason than because they are ours: a devotion that reflects God’s unconditional love, for while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
What will our child’s life amount to? Our children may be disabled, but not discounted. Every child—regardless of output or ability—is equally priceless and purposed by God. He blesses them and will make them a blessing.
Mary couldn’t have conceived. Yet she did. I couldn’t have conceived being blessed by autism. Yet I was. Fifteen years ago, when a doctor’s note leveled our lives, I couldn’t have imagined how disability could ever be a blessing. But the power of God is made perfect in weakness.
I couldn’t have imagined the gifted professionals we’d meet on the journey: Therapists, educators and specialists whose passion paralleled our own; or the tribe of fellow special-needs families who “get it.” We offer each other the priceless gift of belonging to a Shared Otherness.
I couldn’t have imagined how our child would challenge and inspire others into greatness, beginning with our own family. Our Individualized (Spiritual) Education Plan has optimized how passionately we love, how bitterly we cry, how desperately we pray, how fiercely we fight, how hard we hustle, and how endlessly we hope.
Through striving to maximize our child’s potential, our children maximize ours. They school us for wizard parenting in a Muggles world. We may not have gotten the child we expected. But they refashion us into warriors and witnesses we didn’t know we could be.
Extraordinary blessings cannot be gained in ordinary ways. Our world may rank #blessings by report cards and appraisals, price tags and pay grades. But God uses the simple things of the world to shame the wise, and the weak to shame the strong. When the God of the universe esteems all His children as “wonderfully and fearfully made”—regardless of abilities, achievements, status or #BLESSING—I’m learning not to argue with Him.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
Diane is a special needs ministry consultant, speaker, and author of, Unbroken Faith: Spiritual Recovery for the Special-Needs Parent. Connect with her at dianedokkokim.com. This adapted excerpt was taken from Unbroken Faith © 2017 by Diane Dokko Kim. Used with permission by Worthy Books, an imprint of Worthy Publishing Group, a division of Worthy Media Inc. All rights reserved.