“I don’t know what the future holds for my disabled child, and it scares me to death!”
This is probably one of the most common comments I hear from parents in the community of disability. My advice usually comes in the form of backward-glancing experience, and sounds something like this:
“The providence of God is not a mountaintop where we stand and look outward at the future unfolding before us. Instead, it is a place we run to in faith and grace, only to understand its implication on our lives as we look back on our course.”
Or as Kierkegaard put it, “We live life forward, but we understand life backward.”
Nearly 20 years ago, I walked into the Wayne County, WV courthouse with my wife to attend one of the most important events of our lives. We sat at the end of a long wooden conference room desk holding a tiny baby. We were young and hopeful. Our intentions were innocently naive and our plans were as big an ocean before us.
We didn’t know it at the time, but God’s plans were even bigger.
The adoption hearing was scheduled for 10am sharp. The judge sat at the opposite end of the table looking at his watch. Except for the short bouts of nervous conversation and the babbling coo of the baby, the room was silent as we waited for the case to officially begin. The judge was not looking at his watch anticipating the end of the hearing. He was watching the clock to mark an exact beginning.
It was to be strategically exact because the baby’s biological father refused to waive his parental rights. He didn’t refuse because he was an outstanding human being, a conscientious objector, or even a caring dad for that matter. The biological donor in question was a drug addict with an extensive criminal history, who only knew he had a son because we had to search him out to eliminate the vacant spot on the birth records where the father’s name is supposed to appear. Still, he refused to waive his parental rights stating in a nonchalant manner with an evil grin, “Who knows? I might want to raise me a son…someday.”
It was that “someday” that frightened us the most.
The judge gave us specific warning that if the biological father showed up to the final adoption hearing to contest, then the hearing would be cancelled and a trial would have to determine who would receive custody of the baby.
I was confident the man would not show up. Most of my confidence came from his criminal past and habitual drug use. The rest of my confidence came from a good friend sitting in a police cruiser strategically parked at the county line a few miles from the courthouse–the line the man would have to cross in his “illegal” vehicle to get to the hearing.
Still the ticking of the clock grew louder and louder.
“Let the court take note that it is now 10 am and the hearing has officially proceeded.” The judge said, looking at us with a smile.
“Do you promise to take good care of this child?” He said quickly, getting straight to the point. It almost sounded like a portion of our marriage vow, to which I answered rather instinctively and accordingly, “I do.” Kim resounded, “We will.”
He shuffled around a stack of official papers stamping some and signing others. We placed our signature on more than a few documents and the clerk officially filed them with her stamp.
“Let the court know that this child is now legally named Jacob Gregory Lucas and is now legally placed into the custody of Gregory and Kimberly Lucas as … their… son.” The judge officially proclaimed.
“Congratulations,” he said as he stood at the head of the table and shook our hands. There were hugs and pictures and smiles and tears. It was one of the greatest times of my life.
That little baby boy turns 20 years old tomorrow.
He is still an infant in many ways. Perhaps this is one of the blessings of being Jake’s dad. He still depends on me to meet his most basic needs and to care for him like a father would care for a little baby. Yet today, as we celebrate his birthday at his new home, a full time care facility for independent living, the words of the judge cut into my heart. “Do you promise to take good care of this child?”
“I do … we will.”
Yet someone else cares for my son now. A team of professionals have replaced my wife and me. And no matter how attached they get to my son, they will always care for him more out of duty than deep love.
The guilt we feel from this is often overwhelming.
At times I wish I had a clearer view of the future from that courtroom table 20 years ago. Perhaps I would have done things differently.
Yet God is good for not showing us the ending from the beginning. We would be paralyzed by fear and crippled with anxiety if we knew exactly what the earthly future had in store for each of us.
Instead He reveals the ending through our sanctified lives, little by little, step by step; giving us grace-filled, backward glances of insight and understanding. We run this race forward, leaning towards the finish line, grasping at faith to take us around the next blind curve and over the next steep hill.
And that’s the real answer to the future question—FAITH.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the evidence of things unseen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Standing in that courtroom 20 years ago I would have been absolutely overwhelmed seeing my life as it is today. The failures would be too devastating; the burdens would be too great.
But today as I look back over the past 20 years of triumph and tears, I see God’s hand of providence in my life. I recognize His perfect plan of love, grace, adoption, rescue and redemption–both my son’s and mine.
If I had a hundred lives to live, I would live every one of them as Jake’s dad. And I would look to the future through the wide lenses of God’s past faithfulness. I would see all He has accomplished, and my heart would be at ease with whatever may come.
Happy birthday Jacob Gregory Lucas! Whatever the future holds for us, I’m trusting in the One who holds the future—for us.