He was shuffling around in the parking lot as I pulled into the office early one morning.
Before I got out of the car, he wandered over and was standing by my door, obviously waiting for me to get out of my vehicle.
I nodded to him and said hello as I headed to our office’s front door. He followed me curiously and noticed our name on the door. He asked me “What is Rising Above Ministries?”
I invited him to join me inside where he explained he was waiting for the office next door to open for business. I briefly described who we are and our mission to serve the special needs community.
I was in a hurry to get started on my tasks for the day, and I really wasn’t in the mood for a lot of small talk and idle conversation. He was a talkative older man though, and so I listened politely.
Over the next five or ten minutes as we talked, he mentioned that he had an adult son with special needs himself.
Only he didn’t use the words “special needs.”
He called his own son “retarded.” In fact, he used the word retarded 5-6 times in the brief few moments he was in my office.
Over and over again, the word retarded just rolled off his tongue.
My blood pressure went up twenty points every time the offensive word came out of his mouth.
He even shared a story with me where his own son was struggling to do a task, and he told his son to give up, saying, “You can’t do it because you’re retarded.”
Just as I was beginning to consider a Jedi mind trick to try to blow up him up right in front of me, I sensed the Holy Spirit prompting me to calm down.
He was a much older man, and in his generation, the word was commonly used and socially acceptable those many years ago.
For those reasons, I decided this time I would give him a little grace. How much grace was still to be determined.
But all that week, I couldn’t stop thinking about that poor son. Having your own dad tell you to give up because you are retarded. Telling you that you cannot do something because “you’re retarded.”
Parents, the words that you speak over your child or about your child have the power of life and death.
I am constantly, with every opportunity I have, speaking positive words of affirmation and life over my son. I am always telling him how proud I am to be his dad and how honored I am that God chose me to be his dad.
I want him to know that my love and acceptance of him is unconditional. There is nothing he can do, or become, that would make me love him anymore than I already do. I love him because of who he is, my son. I simply cannot let a day go by without reminding him of it.
It’s the same the way God the Father loves me as his son. He loves me just the way I am; only he loves me too much to leave me the way I am.
There’s an interesting passage in scripture. In Matthew chapter 21:18-20, Jesus has a strange encounter with a fig tree.
“Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.”
And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?”
Jesus spoke death over the fig tree and it never bore fruit again. The tree simply withered and died. His words cursed the tree.
His words had the power of life and death.
So do yours.
Your child with special needs is your fig tree. Every time you pass by or encounter your child, you need to speak words of life, love, and affirmation over your child or children. Every time you speak, you can either bring life or death to your child.
Your kids will believe whatever you say about them. Your child will become whatever he or she believes. And what they believe about themselves will be determined by what you speak over them. They will become whatever the voices they hear say about them.
Your spouse is a fig tree too. Every time you pass by your spouse it’s an opportunity to speak life over your spouse as well.