My son turns twenty-two tomorrow.
For most parents raising typically developing children, the passing years are anticipated to bring more and more joy. There are seasons to look forward to—sporting events and spring prom and driver’s education and graduation and college and career and marriage and children and grandchildren. The natural progressions of life within the family unit are hopeful jewels in the crown of parenthood.
My son turns twenty-two tomorrow, and there have been no championship games or prom dances. He didn’t walk across a stage at his high school graduation. He will not drive a car or go to college. He will never have a job, a wife, or children. The natural progressions of my son’s life get less hopeful with each passing year. The milestones are gut wrenching and the future is filled with painful questions: Where will he live out his life? Who will care for him when we’re gone? What if he is mistreated or neglected? When will the side affects of a lifetime of harsh medications and debilitating disabilities take their toll on his body, organs and mind? Will he suffer? Will he know we loved him to the end?
My son turns twenty-two tomorrow and he is not getting better, he is getting worse. It’s not getting easier; it’s getting harder. He is getting older. I am getting older. His skin is covered with open sores from years of self-abuse and unknown skin ailments. His hair is all but gone, his teeth are decaying and slowly falling out, his legs are turning inward so badly that he practically walks on his ankles. Physical disabilities, autism, PDD/NOS, and a plethora of sensitivity issues have ravaged his once bubbly personality leaving him frustrated and distressed. The anxiety is greater than it has ever been—for him and for me. As I look over the hundreds of childhood pictures spanning two decades, my heart swells and then gradually sinks. The change is dramatic and heartbreaking. His remaining life will likely be short and full of sorrow.
“Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1)
My son turns twenty-two tomorrow, and his mom and I will grieve—deeply, silently, secretly, and personally. But we will not grieve in the same way as those who have no hope. (I Thessalonians 4:13) For we consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to him. (Romans 8:18) We will cry with an inward groan as we wait eagerly for the redemption of our son’s body. (Romans 8:23) We cannot see how this will work out. Then again, hope that is seen is not really hope. But if we hope for what we cannot see, we will anticipate it with patience and confidence. And the Spirit will help in all our weaknesses. (Romans 8:24-26)
My son turns twenty-two tomorrow, and tomorrow we will rejoice that he was fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together in his mother’s womb, created in the Imago Dei. (Psalm 139:14) We will sing “happy birthday” and blow out candles. We will shower him with gifts and surround him with love. We will take photographs and selfies and we will allow the world to see just a snippet of our life. We will laugh and eat cake as if disability did not exist. And people will say, “What a happy boy! What a delightful day! The Lord is faithful! Jesus is enough! God is good!”
My son turns twenty-two tomorrow, and as he preaches to us a silent message of tangible grace, we will feel the warmth in our souls that this is not the end. We are not yet home. Our citizenship is in heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform Jacob's lowly body so that it will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20-21)
My son turns twenty-two tomorrow, and twenty-two years is like a day to the Lord. But even if that day is like a thousand years to us—we will spend each moment knowing God is faithful to the very end.