If I had to choose a word to define parenting – especially parenting children with special needs – humbling would be it.
None of us likes to be humbled. Humility is not the top faith trait I usually aim for. Wisdom, faithfulness, love, integrity, compassion, contentment… all of those are preferred over humility, if I’m honest about what I want.
But as a woman sorting through motherhood in the midst of therapies and medications and appointments and equipment fittings, sometimes the waves of life seem overwhelming. As I’m the lifeguard keeping watch over our children’s special needs, sometime I wonder:
Who will rescue me when the waves are too strong?
This past week found us at the beach for a day – me, my husband, and our six young children, five of whom can’t yet swim. Three of our children joined our family via Ugandan adoption only eight months ago, so last week was the first time they had ever seen the ocean, much less waves, seashells, or piers. In particular, Patu’s reaction proved to be an object lesson for me.
“Let’s go water, Mommy!” she squealed, pulling me toward the ocean. But then as soon as those little toes got wet, she scrambled up my legs, clamped her arms around my neck, and settled into my arms. Once we were back on shore, her confidence returned and she didn’t need me.
Yes, she felt safe as long as she was approximately 12 inches from the water’s edge, but she kept begging to go back in. During one of those trips into the surf, it hit me. No, not a wave, but rather the realization that I have more in common with my three year old than I’d like to admit.
Sometimes special needs parenting feels like that huge wave that slaps you in the face, knocks you on your tail, and leaves you sputtering and gasping for air.
Other times, like when I watch my child who is wading through crushing trauma as she delights in the beach, special needs parenting is swells of pride and joy and laughter at how far we’ve all come.
I’m thankful for the waves to remind me, like Patu, to scramble up into safe arms of the One I can trust.
…Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
Isaiah 43:1-3 (ESV)
Just as Patu is learning to trust the safety of my arms, I’m daily learning to trust the safety of His. Because when the waves are too strong, God is the only one who is always stronger.
Humbling, yes, but in a wonderful way.