A marriage certificate. Divorce papers. A Do Not Resuscitate Form. An adoption certificate. A will, deed or pink slip.
“Just a piece of paper”? Hardly. At the moment of issue, each irrevocably impacts the life of the recipient, and ripples out into the lives of everyone surrounding.
On August 20, 2004, a 4×6 sheet of paper leveled my life, when a pediatric neurologist scribbled something on a prescription pad and handed it to me:
“Patient meets diagnostic criterion 299.00 of the DSMIV. Moderate to severe autism. Severely disabled. Mentally retarded. Cognitively impaired. Non-verbal. Aggressive intervention of 40 weekly hours of applied behavioral analysis, speech therapy, occupational therapy, plus ancillary supports strongly advised. Prognosis unknown…”
After months of speculation, medical testing, and dread, our firstborn had been diagnosed with autism. It was just a piece of paper, weighing less than an ounce. But it was the heaviest burden I’d ever hold.
Some pieces of paper cut far deeper than others.
Spiritual Code Blue
As I grieved the death of my Idealized Child, well-meaning friends tried to console us with encouraging words and Bible verses,
“God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.” ”Special Needs children are a blessing!” “God is (still) good!”
Just stop. Please.
In the face of “Severely disabled. Mentally retarded. Prognosis unknown,” how is God still good? That Paper severed all connections between my head and heart. Any earlier beliefs, convictions or even feelings went numb as disillusionment and spiritual death hovered near. My faith was flat-lining.
We both required urgent and intensive intervention.
Spiritual surgery is not without pain. You could keep reapplying pat, Sunday School-answers, like a plastic Band-Aid on a wound. But superficial solutions never really stick. Shallow treatment doesn’t mend torn tissue or flush out the emotional pus festering deep within. Sometimes, you have to cut deep, to really deal with what’s going on inside.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
~ Heb. 4:12
What does the Bible have to do with the modern-day, gritty realities of raising a disabled child? What does an omnipotent God know about raising a disabled child? His Child was perfect. How is this antique, archaic book relevant?
He knows the joyful anticipation of beloved children. He prepared lavishly for their arrival, just like any eager Parent.
He understands the heartache when those children don’t turn out as expected, despite having done everything right to guarantee them. His heart was filled with pain, too.
He’s the Father of a Wounded Son who was bullied, misunderstood, rejected and scorned. He understands my feral protectiveness, outrage and demand for justice.
He’s felt completely alone, carrying a Burden no one could understand. He, too, experienced utter disappointment when trusted people weren’t there for Him at His time of need.
He has cried out prayers in blood, sweat and tears… that were met with silence. He demonstrated submission to, “Not my will, but Thine.”
He’s experienced the answer will be “No,” sometimes. But also that “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
He’s even uttered the same words I’ve cried out in times of darkness and despair, “My God, why have you forsaken me?!”
Ultimately, He demonstrated His power over death and despair. He proved that what the Enemy intended for evil, God can redeem for good. He proved that He is a Redeeming God, the only kind of God He knows how to be.
What I thought guaranteed certain death, became the primary vehicle for proving God’s goodness and relevance of His Word. The Word of God became absolutely relevant to struggles and doubts of a special needs parent.
Knowing that the God of the Universe understands how I feel, and hurts as I hurt, somehow makes a difference. He gets it. He gets me.
The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
For those willing to submit to its scalpel, it wields supernatural skill to sear through the scar tissue of cynicism, cauterise a hemorrhaging heart, and flush out the toxic bile of bitterness. It can bind up and heal that which was once broken.
The Bible isn’t just a thick compilation of paper. It is the very Words of Life, able to defibrillate a dying faith and infuse it with new resilience and vitality.
If a single piece of paper could wreck my life in an instant, then over 1,000 divinely inspired pages has power and authority to resurrect, redeem and repurpose.
The Word of God has transformed my life.
I pray it transforms yours.
What “piece of paper” has impacted your life? Or perhaps a Bible verse, song lyric or quote…
Christ follower, Wife, Autism Mom, Special Needs Parent Support Group Leader & Disability Ministry Advocate, Diane lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband Eddie and their two boys. Her devotional, “Faith Rehab: Spiritual Recovery for the Special Needs Parent,” will be published Fall 2013.
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