On September 27, 1984, my wife and I thought we were the parents of a normal infant boy. By the afternoon of the following day, our normal child was gone, gone forever, and we found ourselves the parents of a baby with cerebral palsy. With dizzying and baffling swiftness, our lives were changed, radically, permanently. It was as if the Lord had said to me, “Fool, this night thy son shall be required of thee.”
Indeed, regarding my son, my first born, I had played the Rich Fool. How often in the first months of my boy’s life, months now impossibly distant, did not I hold him and imagine, “What will his life be like?’’ In my mind’s eye I saw him walking and running, and imagination’s keen ear let me hear his first word. These things and more did I imagine, and now I do not know if I will ever see the least of these things.
I think that most parents, to some extent, behave as did the Rich Fool of Luke 12. It is so easy to plan or imagine our children’s futures, and typically those plans and dreams include only “good’’ things. Such behavior on our part is understandable. We mean no harm by it, yet it remains, finally, a foolish thing to do.
It is foolish because it creates in us the false impression that our children belong to us. It fosters in us the false belief that somehow we are in control of the events in our children’s lives. And, worst of all, it encourages in us a sense of outrage, dismay, and inequity when God moves in ways contrary to our plans and dreams.
I do not mean here to make of my son’s affliction a soapbox from which to harangue parents who have far more experience as parents than do I. Yet there are some things of which I would like to remind all believing parents. In relation to your children, live for today. I do not mean that in the careless, hedonistic sense of thoughtless abandon that marks modern society, but in the positive sense that “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.’’ Enjoy your children as they are now, right at this moment. Do not waste a minute of today anticipating or worrying what your child will be like tomorrow. One theologian has called our timeless God “The Eternal Now”; and we do well to remember that it is that God in Whom we live and move and have our being.
Secondly, if God has blessed you with children of sound body and mind, give constant thanks for that great gift. We tend to take for granted that which runs smoothly, be it a refrigerator, a car, or a child. In the days when I was unaware of my son’s condition, I rarely gave his mental and physical abilities a thought; I assumed all was well and would remain so, forgetting the frailty of human flesh, forgetting that it is God’s good pleasure alone that preserves health and life. Each day, all day, live in conscious gratitude for the blessing of well-being that God has bestowed on your child. For certainly, should your child suffer permanent affliction, you will be aware of that each waking moment of your life.
Finally, we must struggle to remember that our children are not our own. They belong to God, and He has ordered all their days and all their ways according to His counsel. His counsel, His plans, not ours. Our children are God’s, and He will do with them as He sees fit. That is easy for the mouth to say, nigh impossible for the heart to live. I have had to say those words over and over again, even when they meant nothing to me, so hard it is for our flesh to accept and affirm those words.
But, paradoxically, we as parents find our greatest comfort in the fact that our children belong to God. Our dear Father, Whose ways are so far above our own, graciously provides us and our children with the assurance that we are His, that He is good, and that no evil can befall us in this fallen world. And therefore we not only see but rejoice in the truth that we hold our children in trust, a divine trust, inviolate, no matter what our children’s condition, no matter what our rebellious dispositions might argue to the contrary. We are God’s, our children are God’s, and, as Charles Wesley said, “The best thing is, God is with us!” In Him we live, in His grace we glory, and in His loving bosom we rest and wait, wait for the day in which all shall be made perfect and new.