Special needs parents experience 5 phases as they adjust to their new role and family dynamic. The phases are outlined in my book, Unexpected Blessings: The Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special Needs Family. They mirror the journey Paul was on in Acts 27 as he sailed for Rome but found himself in unexpected situations. The first phase is recognizing Plan B.
The plan for Paul in Acts 27 was to sail to Rome with other prisoners. We read in the first 12 verses about all the things that went wrong. Let’s pick up in verses 9 and 10 “Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, ‘Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.’”
As we keep reading about Paul’s journey and the twists and turns it takes, we see they faced a storm they couldn’t withstand. Verse 18 says the were violently-storm tossed. And verse 20 says “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.”
Can you relate to feeling like all your hope has run out? That you were in a situation so scary, you didn’t know if you would survive it? I’m sure you remember the moment you heard your child’s diagnosis.
My parents first heard “Down syndrome” the day my big sister was born in 1977. They didn’t know ahead of time that anything would be different about their first child. She was also born with intestinal blockage, a condition that threatened her life. As first-time parents, they found themselves in a Plan B situation they weren’t expecting when the labors pains had started the evening before.
We got my son James’s autism diagnosis after his 3rd birthday. It wasn’t a surprise to us in that moment since we had seen signs of regression since he had turned two. But there’s still an adjustment when it’s made official by a school psychologist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist who have only interacted your child for an hour. We walked into that building with concerns and walked out with a label, but no idea what his life would look like in the future.
But even though my sister’s Down syndrome was a surprise to my parents and James’s autism was a plan B situation for us, we soon came to realize it was still God’s Plan A. These diagnoses weren’t mistakes or accidents. They were part of God’s plan for our family.
Before finding yourself in this situation, you may have never asked, What does the Bible say about disabilities? But when we open the pages, we find it says a lot!
In Exodus 4, God told Moses what He needed Moses to do. But it wasn’t Moses’ Plan A, so he tried to talk God out of it. Let’s look at verses 10-12, “But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.’”
God reminded Moses and this passage reminds us that God has a purpose in disabilities, in weaknesses, struggles, and obstacles. Like all things in His creation, they point to His glory.
And in John 9 when Jesus and the disciples passed a man who was born blind, the disciples asked Jesus who sinned to cause his blindness, was it him or his parents? And He replied that the purpose was to see the works of God displayed!