Recently, while I was chatting with Ben and John, our conversation rolled around to John’s son, a young man who has Down syndrome. John exclaimed without irony, “I feel sorry for people who don’t have the privilege of raising a son who has Down syndrome.” John expresses himself so well! (He writes an articulate blog which includes entries about his son, Edward.)
As I and my fellow Americans look ahead to celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, I’m thanking God for the privilege of raising a daughter, Nicole, who has multiple, severe disabilities. Please note, I don’t thank God for her in spite of her disabilities. I thank God for her as she is today.
I wasn’t always able to say that. In Nicole’s early months, as my wife and I learned the extent of her disabilities, we grieved the child we dreamed we would have as we came to love the child that she was. But I don’t grieve about Nicole anymore. She is our child, now a young adult, who has her own personality, likes, dislikes, abilities, and challenges. She has her own gifts of joy and love and delight in life that she shares freely with those around her.
I’m not saying that she is an angel dropped from heaven, thank God. I wouldn’t know how to love an angel anyway. God gave my wife and me the privilege of raising Nicole. Now we have the privilege of knowing her as a young adult who lives in a wonderful Christian group home called Harbor House Ministries.
Not all parents can say as easily, “It’s a privilege to raise this child.” Some children, whether or not they have disabilities, can be very difficult and can cause their parents all kinds of grief and heartache.
But as for me, as I head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m thanking God for Nicole and for our other three living children. I’m saying with John, “I feel sorry for people who don’t have the privilege of raising a child who has a disability.”