Smith, Natalie

A friend once sent me an article that painted a scene in a lovely dinner hall.
Dessert was to be served.
Orange-shaped chocolates were being served.
As we watched all these people delight in their chocolate, some of us were served oranges … a real, juicy orange.
The article went on to explain that an orange is not bad, it’s actually good for a person. There is nothing wrong with being given an orange.
But in the moment, it is also NOT chocolate.
In the moment, there may be some heart struggle with gratitude for the orange and not envying the chocolate.

What is this lovely orange the article was referring to?
A special needs child.
In my case specifically, one on the Autism Spectrum.

Though I knew for a long time what was coming, my heart sobbed as therapist after therapist explained to me that my 27-month-old son was on a 9-month communication level. He was unable to mimic (you know, the most foundational skill needed to learn.. well, anything?), and he would need full time therapy.

What kind of life do we face long term? Don’t families go into thousands upon thousands of dollars in debt in attempt to have their child in intensive therapy? Will our son ever be able to care for himself? Will he ever give his mom a hug, point for a toy, or even communicate that he is hungry? Aren’t parents of special needs kids at an alarmingly higher risk for divorce?

And the guilt… What will my daughter be robbed of while her parents focus on her brother? Why did we not know to get him diagnosed sooner? In therapy sooner?

But we know that God is a good God, ready to show us His glory, even when circumstances look grim to our human eyes. The “Dark Hole” year of no rest, of high stress, and building resentment towards my husband as we engaged in parenting style collisions with little sleep, are all things that God uses to show me more of Himself. With a child who does not know how to interpret their world, anything from if I sit down in the van at the wrong moment (until recently, my husband and I had to wait for each other and sit in the front seats simultaneously), to my daughter walking by the living room when my son was watching the wheels on his train, to trying to let him choose which shirt to wear, have been grounds for screams up to a regular 45 minute melt down. Yet, these are all part of a bigger purpose to catch glimpses of the glories of God.

The truths the God of the Bible has given me to cling to during this time are:
1. God is sovereign (in how my son, Simeon is created, the timing of every event and the process of helping my son develop, how much or how little we have in terms of sleep and finances, etc.)
2. God works all things for the good of those who love Him. He is GOOD! And will never abandon us!
3. Why would God allow special needs? To display HIS glory (John 9:1-4)

Did I see these truths in the beginning, or do I even recognize them every day?
So, where is this magnificent grace of God?
His grace is in the middle of a meltdown when God strengthens me to not scream or punch a wall. Rather, the Holy Spirit convicts me to choose to die to my emotions, and show love instead. Grace is God’s forgiveness for my unjust anger towards my son and the beautiful bond that God has allowed to form between us. His grace is found through all God has taught me about my mystery child. This marriage, glued with God’s conviction, that feels light in romance and heavy in serious conversations, is still standing; that is a testimony to His powerful grace!

God’s providence covers me through supervisors and co-workers that support me when I am struggling to perform up to par. It’s in the prayers and support of family, friends, and the church body. God’s kindness is His discipline to grow in me joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control that are rooted in Christ and not based on my circumstances.

I do not know what the future will look like. I am certain there will be more sadness as our son struggles to make friends and find a job. But I am confident it will also be full of celebratory moments that could only be seen through the journey of struggle led by Jesus.

Developmental delays, genetic mutations, and chronic illness are all symptoms of the general curse of sin in the world… and God uses each of them to display His redemptive story and show us His glory! When God gave us a special needs child, He was not being means or unfair. He did not desert us. He gave us front row tickets to witnessing His power spring from brokenness.
He gave us an orange.
Christ has used our orange to nourish our spiritual walk with Himself!

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