For almost 32 years, my life has been divided into before and after.
Before our first child was born,
And after he came into our lives.
Before the doctor came in to say something was wrong,
And after we agreed to send our son to a bigger hospital by ambulance.
Before another doctor called with a diagnosis,
And after our newborn was life flighted 750 miles away for surgery.
Before I experienced the fierceness and pain of parental love,
And after I got used to carrying my heart outside my body.
Before our baby’s soft skin was marred by scars,
And after his small body was criss-crossed with them.
Before I could comprehend the agony of the Father on Good Friday,
And after I held my baby and bowed in wonder at the gift of God’s Son on the cross.
Before I knew birthdays could be both happy and sad,
And after I knew my son’s would ever be so.
Tomorrow is the 32nd anniversary of the division of my life into before and after. That’s right. My sweet baby turns 32 tomorrow. His birthday card’s been sent. His present has been bought. My husband and I will call and sing a corny rendition of the birthday song. Tomorrow will be a day of great celebration for our family.
For me, it will also be a hard day of reliving the before and after baggage of parenting a child with special needs. To be honest, there are days when I would like to abandon that baggage. I’d like to quit writing about the challenges we experienced. I’d like to quit dredging up memories that make tears roll down my cheeks. I’d like to move on and forget about the times when our worries were many, sleep was scarce, when life and death decisions were required of us day after day after day.
But I can’t abandon the baggage. Because, I believe that encouraging parents of kids with special needs is a ministry given to me by God. A ministry that began the day our son was born, and I stepped into the world of special needs parenting. In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says this about people who know God has given them a specific ministry:
Have you received a ministry from the Lord?
If so, you must be faithful to it–
to consider your life valuable only for the purpose of fulfilling that ministry.
Those words jumped out at me the first time I read them, and they jump out at me still. They focus my attention on two more ways my life was divided into before and after 32 years ago tomorrow:
Before I knew God formed me to fit into the niche of special needs ministry,
And after He revealed His purposes.
Before my heart broke for new parents with lives being split into before and after,
And after we shouldered each others’ baggage and shared one another’s joy and pain.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.