As our family has been living this adoption adventure and as we have been preparing and learning what it means to have a child with special needs, I was thankful when Crossway published The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs by Andrew and Rachel Wilson.
This book takes you into the lives (it feels like you are experiencing life as they do in real time) of parents learning to process and live with the unexpected special needs of their two children, both with regressive autism. It is a frank account of this difficulties, the unknowns and the faithful trust they have in Christ and his plan for their lives. Nothing is easy about their story but they have an outlook defined by a hope in their Savior that is certainly a model for others.
The chapters are brief reflections that help you form a pattern for processing circumstances and the challenges of providing and caring for special needs children. There are some practical bits and wisdom to share with family and friends that I think are tremendously valuable.
The Life We Never Expected’s value is in the way the Wilson’s have pulled the curtain back and let you see their messy, difficult and seemingly joyful lives. It would be a great help to those close to special needs families or those just given a diagnosis that they don’t know how to process and plan for. And the focus on trusting in God in the midst of it all can encourage us all. As Rachel says, things might be rough and unplanned, “But God is the Captain. He is the navigator, mapmaker, and expert. He sets our course and knows where the land is. In light of that, my continued attempts to reclaim control of the ship are strikingly ridiculous.”
While I think this book is a solid help for families with unexpected (given the title) special needs in children, I wasn’t keen as an adoptive parent that chose a special needs child to be part of our family. It seemed like the reality of special needs was all suffering and hardship and clearly not something you would choose. I know it was not the Wilson’s intention to come across this way but I would caution those that grab the book for this reason. They get to a good place with trusting in God’s plan but you have to wade through their process of coming to terms along the way.
As I continue my study of 1 Corinthians 3 and how God brings growth and how we build the church from the foundation of Christ, I am struck by the tension of our labor and God’s gift of growth.
Francis Schaeffer called the work we do “active passivity.” We press on, believing the promise of God to give growth. This is the way for the individual and for the church as a body.
One college professor summarizes Schaeffer’s perspective given in his book True Spirituality:
“If we are to bring forth fruit in the Christian life, or rather, if Christ is to bring forth this fruit through us by the agency of the Holy Spirit, there must be a constant act of faith, of thinking: “Upon the basis of Your promises I am looking for You to fulfill them, Lord Jesus – bring forth Your fruit through me into this poor world to Your praise” (note carefully that it is the presence of God in your life that is making your actions efficacious and fruitful – you are called to obey believing, and God brings forth the fruit). That is what Schaeffer means by “active passivity.” Thus true spirituality is not achieved in your own energy. The “how” of the Christian life (true spirituality) is stated in Romans 6:11 – “Consider yourself to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (that is the faith perspective; the foundational consid-eration for your entire life). This is the “how” – there is no other. The Christian life is not just a matter of right actions (irrespective of faith), it is a matter of humble submission to will of God with a proper heart perspective (faith), knowing that His Spirit is doing a special work in and through your life in that particular moment – it is the power of the risen Christ, through the agency of the Holy Spirit. . . by faith. You must have confident assurance in the moment that “God is at work in you to will and do His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13; Heb 11:1) – the faith you exercise one moment doesn’t get credited to the actions you take the next moment; you must consciously exercise faith at all times. Again reflect upon the words of Paul to the Galatians – “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God” (Gal 2:20). So, fruit-bearing Christians “live by faith,” that the “power of God might live in them” in the person of the Holy Spirit – when we live by faith, God is involved in the work. It is then that the believer can say with Paul, “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” (45-59)”
Oh the implications of a life of active passivity!
What joy we are experiencing in bonding with our little girl. She is so sweet, loves to giggle and keeps checking to see if we are still here! There will be challenges physically for her but she seems so willing and capable to face them with us. We truly love her.
Today I am reflecting on this song from Ghost Ship called “adoption.” This is really our story and this is why we chose to adopt Adia, to give her a home… Because we were adopted in Christ. If you were wondering about our motivation know that you too can experience this adoption, this love from God through Christ.
I have been joking the last couple of weeks about Stacy’s and my trip to China to bring home our daughter saying it was a vacation. It is true to a point. I am using vacation time to be away. But it really isn’t about relaxation and getting away, there is significant purpose.
It all has me thinking about invitations to slow down and change perspective that we too often ignore or refuse. We have better things to do, we are convinced. How will we achieve our goals if we rest?! How can I be the best it I am not moving, hustling..?
Maybe we need to say yes to more of these invitations. Set different goals. Slow down. Look around. Be amazed.
I promise to do so, even on this journey of family growth and adoption. We shall laugh when we can. See many new things. Cry if we need to. And wonder all the more at God’s amazing care for us.
If you need it, I give you permission to go on vacation!