As a child, one of my favorite stories in the Bible was Mephibosheth. There was something fascinating to me about the idea of David honoring a promise to his friend Jonathan. In a time when David would have been considered justified to have killed Mephibosheth as a member of his “opposition”, he basically made Mephibosheth a member of his family. Oh, there were a few hiccups later, but they had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Mephibosheth had special needs.
If you haven’t realized it yet, Jesus also spent a good deal of his ministry showing love and kindness to people with special needs – those who were blind, deaf and disabled in some way. Yes, he healed those he could, but I believe his focus was on raising them to the level of others in a world where they were often marginalized in dreadful ways.
Even today sadly, some churches and some Christians continue to marginalize people with special needs. Most won’t come out and admit it, but there are those who may ask you to find another church or sit your child in a corner in a class without trying to engage him or her in the activity with the rest of the students.
Sometimes, it’s even more subtle and insidious. The unspoken belief your child will never reach the age of accountability or will be/is unable to serve others and share his or her faith can cause Christians to ignore your child’s worth to God and the Church.
Don’t accept anyone’s mistaken belief that your child with special needs is “less than” in God’s eyes. Or that he or she will never reach the age of accountability and be able to decide to become a Christian (It’s quite possible up to 80% of people with special needs will be capable of making an informed decision on baptism – perhaps at a much older age than average, but at some point.).
I recently had someone share a story about a young man who was non-verbal. He had a basic communications board with a few symbols, but that was the only way he could communicate. One day my friend was with him at a camp with a river. He pointed to the sign for water and she asked him if he wanted to go down to the river. He indicated that he did.
Once they reached the river, the young man became quite agitated as he pointed to the sign for the water and then looked up at the sky (or so my friend thought at first). She started to try and guess what he was trying to tell her. Did he want to go “swimming”? Fishing? With every incorrect guess, he became more agitated.
Finally she followed his eyes to the sky, thinking she was missing something. Sure enough, she realized he wasn’t looking at the sky. His gaze was focused on a nearby cross on top of a building. Finally she guessed, “Are you trying to tell me you want to be baptized?”
She said he nearly leapt out of his wheelchair he was so excited she had understood him. Later she asked how long he had been trying to tell someone he wanted to become a Christian. He pointed to the number “2” on his board. “Two days?” she guessed. “No.” “Two weeks?” “No.” He had been trying to get someone to baptize him for two years and no one thought he was capable of making that choice, so they hadn’t understood what he wanted to say.
Also, absolutely refuse to believe your child has no value to the Kingdom or the Church. You might be amazed to learn how much impact your child is already having on the spiritual lives of others – whether or not he or she ever reaches the age of accountability .
My friend had a son named Justin. He never spoke or walked. His movements were so impossible to control that for most of his life, he couldn’t even use a communication board.
Yet, when I attended his funeral a year ago, I was positively humbled and awed. Person after person shared how Justin had impacted them spiritually – their ministries, their career choices and more. Without speaking a word, his presence, his smile and his acceptance of love moved people to make huge positive changes in their lives.
Your child may not have the same disabilities as these two young men. But your child may have a similar story. Talk about spiritual matters and listen in whatever ways he or she can communicate. Help them find their gift from God to serve others and share their faith. Then help them find ways to use that gift to serve God.
Your child has a spiritual walk and a purpose. It may be very different from that of other children, but it is there. Just keep praying, watching and taking those first spiritual baby steps with your child. You may just be amazed at how God uses him or her!