(This was an emotional post to write, but stick with me. I feel the lesson I’ve learned and what God has done in my heart is worth reading to the end. And there is a cute video! Thanks!)
One of the struggles throughout our almost 3.5 year journey with our children has been comparison. As short-sited human beings, we all can relate to the temptation to compare and to the chains we find ourselves in when we succumb. We hold the keys to our shackles, yet so often we continue in bondage rather than claiming freedom.
In this journey, I have certainly compared my situation to other families of multiples, for example. Seeing twins in a double stroller when we are out and about, I can grieve and think, “That could be John and Warren.” And oftentimes, I not only compare but also allow bitterness to quickly creep in as I think, “That should be John and Warren.”
Then of course, there has been the long struggle of comparing John to typically developing children. I’d observe them doing the simplest things, withdraw into my own little world, and sadly think, “That could be John.” At first, it was comparing John to children of his own age. When John was a baby, the gap wasn’t so apparent. Kind friends would tell me, “My child did that late too,” and I’d have hope. Or a baby John’s age may have had better head control or have been able to sit independently, but I would tell myself as I sized him up, “Well, John is only a few months behind, so he has time.”
Then as John turned a year old and the months passed, it was easy to look at younger babies, babies that were not even born yet but had due dates on the calendar, and see them only as children who would quickly surpass John in development. And I’d mourn and think, “That could be John.” We could have the family that didn’t have despair forever mixed in with the joys, the family that could happily assume our unborn baby or newborn would be healthy.
The comparison came in more surprising places as time elapsed. Through therapies, doctors’ appointments, supports groups, and treatment centers, we found ourselves in a community of other children with special needs and their parents. Whether I was aware of it or not, I’d check out their children and once again think, “That could be John.” This is difficult to admit. In those comparisons, sometimes John came out “ahead.” After all, he became increasingly medically stable. No seizures. No medications. No tubes. He smiles and laughs (and has one of the best smiles and laughs I know!). We can tell he feels our love and can communicate it back to us.
However, oftentimes in these comparisons with other children facing challenges, depression sets in as John’s external deficits outweigh those of the other children. I’ll never forget driving home from John’s first early intervention group class when he was almost 2 years old. This program was just one two-hour morning per week and was run like a preschool, only the moms attended as well. On the drive home, I almost had to pull over because of the tears blinding my vision. In a class of special needs children under 3, John was the only one there who could not sit independently. He was the only one who seemed not to engage with the singing. He was the only one not really using his hands. It was easy to look at the kids with Down Syndrome, muscular problems, or visual problems and retreat to self-pity and envy, again thinking, “That could be John,” wanting to trade my son’s challenges for different ones.
Now, even having a healthy son myself, it is not that I compare them so much as I realize what I missed out on with John (bringing Daniel home from the hospital right after his birth, breast feeding, watching him crawl, watching him spot the tiniest thing across the room and be able to walk to it and grab it with his thumb and index finger, etc)…or what I perceive John has missed out on.
But here is the bottom line… comparison is from the pit of hell. It robs. It steals the joy the Lord has for us. And his joy, ultimately, IS our strength. Comparison leaves us lacking because, with its eyes, we are blinded by only seeing what lacks (in ourselves and in others). When God looks at each one of us, He sees a beautiful whole. When we compare, we pervert this image and trade the spiritual eyes He wants to give us for eyes that zero in on what falls short. And yet, these are the things that only fall short in our estimations. Our limited estimations.
Yes, I have hope for what tomorrow holds for John and for our family. But yes, I also am learning to take the keys Jesus has given me and use them to unlock my chains and step boldly into abundant freedom.
I’ve learned that joy and being present in THIS moment means to discard, “That could be John,” and instead boldly proclaim: “This is John.”
We all have “Johns” in our lives. And what gifts they are!! Think about what you are currently facing, struggling with, even feeling ashamed of. Lesser than. Waiting to arrive. Wondering what if. God wants to take us from the places to which we withdraw, bring us into His light, and enable us to embrace our circumstances which are the gifts He gives us.
I pray we can all see the blessings, not despite the pain but even in the midst of the pain, as we allow the joy of the Lord to be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). I encourage you to give yourself grace in your journey. God has utilized all the stages of comparison I have experienced to get me to where I am today, to begin to set my feet upon His rock… the rock of freedom where comparisons begin to fade and they no longer hold their power.
This is my John, and while I eagerly anticipate what his future holds, I want him to know he is PERFECT just as he is.
Email subscribers: CLICK HERE to see this video of John playing his piano.
**We praise God that John continues to use his hands so much more and with so much more efficacy.
**An additional note of praise: Right after I posted last week asking for prayer for an aid for John, we were put in touch with a woman who was looking for a job. She will start today and we are grateful for the Lord’s provision!
**Lastly, John has an appointment with a new doctor here today at 11:30. This is a doctor we heard about from one of the naturopathic doctors at the Institutes in Philadelphia. When he heard we were moving to Atlanta, he said we MUST see this doctor. And I called yesterday and they had just had a cancellation for today! Praise God! We are excited to see how God will use this man in John’s healing process. Thank you for praying!