I went to see a Christian counselor for awhile when I was a senior in college. One of the most memorable things she ever said to me was, “To love someone is to call them forth, with the loudest and most insistent of calls, to be all that God created them to be.” Wow. There are so many good places you can go with that one. And so many not-so-good ones. That’s why it was safe for an effective counselor to say it, because she knew how to guide me into healthy applications of that principle.
What does it mean to call our children with special needs (young or old) “…forth, with the loudest and most insistent of calls, to be all that God created them to be?”
When my son Tim was in early intervention, one of the hardest things for me, as a parent, was wondering: “How much therapy is enough?” Of course there are many different variables that can influence the answer to that question. But, one of the most important things for me was to recognize that there are two underlying issues behind the “How much therapy is enough” inquiry.
1) “What do we hope to accomplish?”
2) “Why do we do what we do?”
At first glance, those might look like the same questions. But I don’t think that they are. What we hope to accomplish with Tim is to help him to maximize his God-given potential. As my mother once wisely stated, “Until Tim proves to me that he cannot do something, I’m not going to assume that he can’t do it.” In other words—we want to avoid the “self-fulfilling prophecy of low expectations” that often plagues children (and adults) with disabilities. Tim definitely senses this affirmation in my mother. One day, when Tim was about eight years old, she invited him to help her load the dishwasher. When the task was completed, he took her face in his little hands, looked her at her intently, and said, “Thank you for believing in me.”
On the other hand, why we do what we’re doing—-well, that can be a different story. Over the years, I’ve had to regularly examine my heart as to why I want Tim to maximize his potential.
- For God’s glory? Or, for my own?
- So that he can live as fulfilling a life as possible? (And whose definition of “fulfilling”?) Or, so that he will live as close to a ‘normal’ life as possible? (And whose definition of “normal”?)
- So that he can live as independently as possible? Or, so that he can distance himself from other people with disabilities?
Do you see? Oh, do you see how subtly we can do the “right” things for the wrong reasons?
Tim was recently blessed with a job at a local grocery story . We affectionately call him “Cart Man” now. But I have to confess. After twenty-one years of working hard through early intervention, life skills and inclusion—my heart has been exposed to me. I recently found myself thinking: “All this work. For carts?” Yes. All this work. For carts. Because Tim loves doing the tasks of Cart Man. And it doesn’t define who he is—yet—listen carefully: yet—it is the perfect opportunity for him to express who he is. (Although we have had to institute a “no dancing at work” rule. (smile))
- He gets to put things “decently in and in order” by collecting and aligning the carts. That’s definitely who God created him to be: an organizer.
- He has the opportunity to talk with countless people in our small town who have been blessed by his life over the years. That’s definitely who God created him to be: a friend to many.
- He has the privilege of helping others by loading their groceries into their cars and returning their carts—especially for those people who are elderly. That’s definitely who God created him to be: a cheerful giver.
If you’re like me, you’ll need to reflect and repent again and again. Reflect on your true motivations. And repent of not calling your child to be all that God created them to be. Maybe for you it’s all that you need them to be. Or, all that your IEP team insists that they be. Or, what society expects they should be.
Love your son or daughter. Love them with an encouraging, passionate, insistence. “You can do this! You can be all that God made YOU to be.” There is nothing more. And our goal ought to be that they are nothing less. Nothing less than they are “fearfully and wonderfully made” to be, as Psalm 139 so beautifully phrases it.
“… love someone…
….call them forth with the loudest and most insistent of calls…
…to become all that God created them to be.”