The other day we were at the playground, and as is often the case when we are around other children, I was struck by Rhema’s differences, her challenges. There was a spiral pole that was severed and had a large hole midway down; caution tape was wrapped all around it. Before I could blink Rhema had climbed onto the top of the pole. I spent a moment struggling to get her off, but as she slid further down she became completely entangled in the caution tape. A woman rushed over to help.
“She’s autistic,” I explained.
“Oh, I know. I could tell. I was a special ed teacher in the public schools.”
Rhema decided she wasn’t getting off that pole no matter how much sweet ABA-talking we did. It took much effort to finger peel her clenched hands from the pole and unwrap her 9-year old legs. We managed to get her down unharmed and I was so thankful for the woman’s help. However Rhema was agitated and angry about being rescued, and I slowly body-walked her across the playground to the car.
In the end it wasn’t a big deal. It was just one incident in a series of incidents that left me grappling with the whys and hows I became the mother of a girl with special needs. I felt keenly the weight on my shoulders – the one labeled “life long care.” You can’t quite understand it unless you’ve lived it – the everyday-ness, every month-ness, every year-ness of taking care of every aspect of someone’s life and knowing that, to some extent, you always will.
I honestly asked God to speak to me about all of it: the why me?/why her? thoughts and emotions, the weary ho-hum days, park incidents, etc. I scanned my Bible in case I’d somehow missed the one chapter or verse written to special needs moms.
I found this:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. ~1 John 3:16
First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. ~ 1 John 4:19
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:5
…And the life which I now live… I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. ~Gal. 2:20
As a starry-eyed twenty year old I spent months in Ethiopia spoon-feeding bedridden, malnourished children, bathing them, dressing them, loving them. I often wonder if God was setting the stage, preparing my heart for this special kind of motherhood. I don’t know. But I’m grateful for the gospel and that He keeps showing me grace and patience and faith and selfless love through my children in Ethiopia all those years ago and my daughters now.
Ann Voskamp wrote a beautiful post to her husband, and it ministered to my heart about life with Rhema:
“But real love is when you live the daily faithfulness of making whole decades of minutes tell the truth about the glorious gospel…
Your days have done this.
You have told me about who Christ is, how He dies to self and gives when there’s nothing left and gives up what is His and gives to those who don’t deserve, so they can have more, and I have seen Christ in you, the way you live, the way you make your life about laying down.”
Oh, may my days do this kind of love!