Do you ever doubt yourself as a parent of a child with special needs?
Ever feel like a failure as a spouse? Wonder why you can’t get it right more often with your friends? Feel like you’re missing the mark as a follower of Jesus?
Not every day. But often enough.
I want to be the best mom, most loving wife, true-blue friend, and role-model Christian. Instead, I find myself losing my temper when my son has a melt-down at the Dollar Store. Instead of telling my husband what’s bothering me, I shut down and give him the silent treatment. Upset with something a friend said, I bite my tongue and pretend like everything’s hunky-dory, when really, it’s not. And there are plenty of days when I complain more than I praise.
Some days I look at myself in the mirror and I don’t like what I see!
Last week was a rough week. I was late on a writing deadline, worried about losing one of the best staff we’ve ever had work with our son, concerned about my mother’s worsening dementia, and just plain overwhelmed and anxious. I was not a fun person to hang out with. And so, yesterday I set aside an entire morning to pray. Early in the morning, still in my robe, I carried my Bible, devotional book, journal, and cup of cinnamon tea out to the backyard. Before I sat down, I stopped to admire our peach tree, so laden with fruit that its branches bow down to the ground.
I drank in that glorious sight for a few minutes, then situated my chair facing away from the tree to look at the garden, a riot of color with blooming hydrangeas, day lilies, phlox, and daisies. I thanked God for a husband who likes to garden, then opened my devotional to find this prayer suggestion: “Invite God to lead you through your life history and reveal those moments in which you failed to love God, others, or yourself.”
Ouch! I don’t need help with this God, I moaned. I do this all too well.
Because I’m in a prayer group that keeps me accountable, I prayed through the exercise. Half an hour later I was overcome with sadness, my mind reeling at all those times I’ve blown it as Joel’s mom, as Matt and Justin’s mom, as Wally’s wife, Virginia’s daughter and God’s beloved.
Suddenly, over the loud chatter of two wrens defending their nest, I heard these words in my spirit:
Turn your chair around.
My head jerked up. Did I really hear that?
Turn your chair around and look at the peach tree.
Okay, Lord. This is a little weird, but I hear you!
I set my tea cup and books on the ground, stood up, and turned my chair around.
I sat and gazed upon that fully-laden peach tree—at all of that glorious, luscious, golden fruit, so full of promise. I imagined taking a bite, the juice running down my chin. I smelled peach cobbler, with a hint of cinnamon, baking in the oven.
The Lord’s voice whispered in my spirit:
Kathy, this tree represents your life. Yes, you’ve messed up plenty of times. But you love me, and you keep turning back towards me. You listen to my voice, and you walk forward in obedience, day by day. Each peach on this tree represents someone that you have touched for my Kingdom. You are a fruit-bearer, Kathy. I delight in you. I hold nothing against you.
A sense of freedom whooshed through my body, soul, and mind, washing away all sadness, guilt and doubt.
Yes, raising children with special needs is a stressful business. And there are plenty of days when we don’t live up to the standards we’ve set for ourselves.
But the good news is, God delights in us. He dances over us with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17). All that He requires is that we love Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37-38), and that we walk forward in obedience to do the work He has called us to do (Deut. 30: 9-14). He sent His son so that we might walk in freedom—that we might be fruit-bearers in His Kingdom (John 15:16).
And guess what? Being a fruit-bearer doesn’t require perfection.
Reflection Exercise: Take a few minutes to meditate on the times in your life when you walked forward in obedience to God’s call, even when you weren’t comfortable or sure of yourself. Make a list. Then, go back through the list and look for the fruit that came out of that obedience. Finish your time by thanking God for using you, in spite of your weaknesses
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another. John 15:16.