We all dream, contemplate, plan, and maybe even scheme a little to create the ideal future for our children. But what happens when those dreams come to a screeching halt and must be changed?
Maybe a dad was a great sports hero in his high school or college. It would be natural for him to want his son to follow in that path. But what if his son is born with cerebral palsy?
Or, perhaps a mother is a great pianist and longs to teach her child the beauty of music and the thrill it has given her soul over the years. But what if her child is born deaf or with a physical deformity involving the hands?
How do we, as parents, dream new dreams for our children when we have no idea what the future holds?
God understands the purpose for each child
It’s easy to dream when we think of a perfect world—a world where all of our thoughts and abilities roll into one, and life is smooth and uncomplicated.
Even when children do not have a disability, the son of the sports-star father might be gifted in music, and the piano virtuoso mother may have a daughter who prefers to organize and plan activities. We can’t always plan our children’s futures.
When our dreams for our children get a reality check, we must remember the verse from Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
This verse has been interpreted many times to mean that if we train our children the way we want them to go—good, moral, athletic, musical, or artistic—then that’s what they will follow for the rest of their lives. But many parents look at this verse as a promise instead of a premise.
Another interpretation, and I believe more appropriate, is that we must train our children in the way that they were created to go. If a child is naturally gifted in music, then training him or her to be a sports star will frustrate both the child and the parent. But if the child is given music lessons, who knows where he will end up by using that gift?
There is nothing wrong with exposing children to different activities to broaden their scope of life, but to expect someone to become an athlete or a musician because we spend money, time, and effort on them will likely be an act of futility.
When it comes to dreaming new dreams for a child with a disability, sometimes we can do so easily and shift our focus, especially if there is an obvious physical handicap. But what about the child with a hidden disability like autism? How do we dream for a child’s future when he or she cannot voice his or her opinion?
How does the parent of a child who melts down at the sound of loud noises introduce him or her to the thrill of even watching a sporting event, much less playing on a team? Where do we find new dreams for the child who looks like any typical child on the outside but inside seems to have a world of his or her own?
The answer is, I believe, that we look to the Creator of that child. We can take comfort from Psalm 139:1-18 (NIV):
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord you know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
… For you created my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.
God has never said, “Oops!” Your child and my child were given to us on purpose and with purpose. We may not understand what that purpose is, especially at first, but God does.
I take comfort in knowing these two words: “but God.” They are written over and over in the Bible, and each time they prove that God knows. He sees, and He provides. When we cannot see His hand, we must trust His heart.
I do not pretend to be a perfect person, parent, or Christian. I am a mom. My husband, Ron, is a dad. We are two people who have done the best we can with the gifts that God has given us—gifts that include our children. No parent is perfect. No parent is omniscient, but God is. In that fact, I found peace and the desire to keep going.
Daniel was 19 years old before a doctor used the word autism in a formal diagnosis. Thankfully, having this diagnosis did not cause regret in the way we had structured Daniel’s life. We probably would not have done anything differently. Once I saw the word “autism” in a medical report, I was relieved; I had finally had validation.
Looking back, we are extremely blessed that Daniel was chosen to be ours, although I’m glad God did not give me all of the details of what our lives would be like with him. It would have been too much to comprehend all at once.
Would Daniel have said “Yes”?
Every life is made of joy and disappointment, and oh, the blessings we would have missed without Daniel! The smiles we would not have witnessed. The funny, quirky jokes we would never had heard. The lessons we never would have learned from watching him work so hard on a task.
Would we have known what the heart of God looks like without Daniel in our lives?
Sometimes I think God should have asked Daniel, “Do you accept this family as your family?” I hope that he would have said “Yes!”
Adapted excerpt from I Would Have Said Yes, © 2012 by Lisa Simmons. Published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson.