Undoubtedly, being a parent of a child with special needs comes with unique challenges. But for four parents, the journey of parenting children with special needs has also been filled with testimonies of new discoveries and understandings of God and the gospel.
These parents shared their stories at a seminar called, “The Road Less Traveled,” hosted by Christ Central of Southern California (CCSC) on Sunday.
The panel of four parents shared openly about various struggles they have faced throughout their children’s lives. Some shared the shock they felt when discovering that their child has, or would have, a disability, as well as the confusing dichotomy of feeling like there is a wealth of resources, yet not any specifically helpful to their children. They shared the sadness they feel as their children may not be able to enjoy the activities that other children do. They shared the feelings of inadequacy and failure they struggle with frequently – “going at a 110 percent and still feeling like we’re failing,” in the words of Jamie Lee, whose four-year-old son Shane has Down syndrome. Some shared the amount of specialized care and extra therapy that their children need due to their disabilities. Still others shared the concern and uncertainty they feel for their children who may fall or get injured at any moment.
But in the midst of those challenges, these parents also had defining moments of recommitment to God, rediscovery of God’s love, and deeper understanding of the gospel.
For instance, when Jamie Lee and her husband Andrew learned during pregnancy that their son would be born with Down syndrome, there was a sense of expectation from others that they should terminate the pregnancy, she recalled. Yet that became an opportunity for them to place their faith in God.
“We had to go back to the gospel and see what is true,” Lee said. Though the couple was faced with a challenge completely unfamiliar to them, they had “great confidence in the God who does know all things,” she added.
Lisa Park, whose eight-year-old son Desmond has autism, shared that for a period during her parenting journey, she struggled with depression.
“It was a battle of being that supermom and thinking that I had to do everything and it still wasn’t enough,” said Park. “It made me realize what the gospel meant – that I’m truly insufficient.”
For Brian Kim, the journey of parenting has been one of witnessing God’s faithfulness, he said. Kim’s 14-year-old son David has a physical disability due to complications he had at two years old, when he had a seizure and a stroke that led to a coma, and the right hemisphere of his brain was severely damaged as a result. After he woke up from the coma about three months later, he was paralyzed throughout the left side of his body. Though the doctors at the time said that he may not be able to walk or talk, today, David can walk with a cane, and “talks to the point that he can be a chatterbox,” Kim said.
“In hindsight, God was there every step of the way, every time we faced uncertainty,” he recalled. “We didn’t know what to do or how to prepare ourselves, but God was there for our family.”
Elizabeth Smith, whose 12-year-old son Ian also has autism, shared that her parenting journey has been for her one of discovering God’s love in new ways.
“I’ve learned so much about God’s love and who He is because of Ian,” she said, “and the journey hasn’t ended – it’s an ongoing process.”
Harold Kim, senior pastor of CCSC who shared remarks in the beginning of the seminar, said that though not everyone may have a disability, for every Christian, “God has placed some kind of wound or weakness” that other people may not notice, but “you see it, feel it, and it has profound effects.”
“Most attractive for Christ Central and every church is not my strength, most relatable is not my strength – it’s our weakness,” Kim went on. “Perhaps the greatest gospel qualification is not how strong you are, but let’s look at how weak you are. How have you suffered? Have you suffered well? Has God shown his strength in your weakness?”
“David defeated Goliath not in spite of his weakness,” Kim added, “but because of his weakness.”