The sufficiency of Christ . . . when we need Him most.
by Donna Scales
The telephone call came on a Friday afternoon — the call that changed our family’s future.
The caller identified himself as Dr. Combs.* Why would he be calling? I wondered. We just saw him this morning. Dr. Combs was our baby Scott’s pediatrician.
“I wanted to tell you that I have concerns about Scott’s development. I’ve scheduled him to be seen by our developmental disability evaluation team.”
My heart thudded to the floor.
My first reaction was anger. Nothing new has happened since we discussed my concerns this morning, yet he didn’t have the courage to talk to me face to face?
I’d sensed something wasn’t quite right with Scott, and now my unsettling premonition was taking on a shape. Consuming fear and grief quickly replaced anger, and an aching numbness filled my body. The only things that seemed to move were my shaking hands.
Later that night, I told my husband about the ominous call. Ken was as crushed as I was. We walked around for days in a trance of sorrow and foreboding.
Ken and I had married late in life (he was 33 and I was 31) and were happy and successful in our careers. After much discussion of the pros and cons of starting a family, and still with some reservations, we decided to try.
Kasie, our firstborn, was sunshine incarnate. She was easy, bright, helpful, enthusiastic, and she loved her daddy. Though I had little experience with children, I liked motherhood and asked Ken if we could have a second child.
He hedged, thinking Kasie was all we needed. He tabled the issue with “Let’s wait for two years and see how we feel.”
Turning to prayer
At exactly two years, I gave Ken my most appealing plea for another child, but he said he was happy with just Kasie. A new Christian at the time, I’d barely learned the lesson to not talk my faith to my husband but to live it. So I prayed.
Every day I asked God for a second child. Every month when I discovered that miracle hadn’t happened, I cried. God’s answer was “no” for an agonizingly long time.
The day I discovered I was indeed pregnant, I started calling our beloved baby my child of prayer.
But how does an immature Christian handle that her fervently desired child of prayer is disabled?
For days I was disoriented and robotic, doing things by remote control. In contrast, my mind was whirling in doubt and confusion. I didn’t like God’s answer to my prayer, and I let Him know it.
On the other hand, I didn’t want to lose any of my fragile faith. Despite my uncertainty, I knew faith was the only way I would make it.
My breakthrough came when I discovered this verse:
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV).
My temptation was doubt. This verse told me that if God thought I could complete the assignment He’d given me, I could.
The disabilities clinic gave us very little information other than that Scott wasn’t reaching the expected milestones of proper development.
“Fretfulness” was a mild description of what I was experiencing with Scott. I nursed him for about ten minutes before the fussiness and restlessness set in. His poor tummy growled in pain, but what could I do? He was so small, he wasn’t even on the growth charts!
For about an hour I’d coax as much milk into him as he could take. I patted, burped, cuddled, sang, whispered, soothed, and then tried to get him to go back to bed. His sleep was, at best, fitful.
I slept in an extra bedroom for six months with the baby monitor at my ear. In order to have the stamina to be what Scott and my family needed from me, I learned to sleep through a lot of fussing and crying. Everyone told us it was colic, but it lasted two years.
When Scott was two years old, we finally received a specific diagnosis: Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition. Fretfulness as a baby is one symptom. We were told Scott would probably have a heart defect and intellectual deficiencies.
Scott eventually learned to sit, crawl, and walk — but very late.
First Corinthians 10:13 promised me I could handle this assignment. With that assurance, I took on all the doctors appointments; physical, speech, and occupational therapy; behavior training; and early education intervention, while trying to be mother and wife to the rest of my family.
I gave every ounce of my strength and commitment, but I wasn’t handling it. I was a physical and emotional wreck.
After a while, Ken took me away to a cottage at the beach — just the two of us. Early one morning I rose, sat in a living room chair, and poured out my frustration and failure to Jesus. I was defeated and confused and begged Him for understanding.
He reminded me of His promise: “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” But I wasn’t bearing it; I was a mess.
Gently, Jesus showed me that I’d taken the verse to mean I could handle challenges and temptations, when it actually meant Donna plus Jesus could handle them. By myself, I couldn’t. But with Jesus as my strength, my wisdom, my guide, my counsel, I could.
The awful weight of guilt and inadequacy lifted. Jesus in me was my way of mothering my child of prayer to be all God created him to be.
Teaching and Scouting
Still, I faced challenges. As a stay-at-home mom and the daughter of educators, I’d thrived at teaching and guiding Kasie. She soaked in learning wherever she went.
Scott was a different matter. There were no early intervention programs when he was young. I got books and studied, but I couldn’t seem to bring the learning steps low enough to reach his level. Scott put up with me, and, slowly, with God’s constant help and direction, I got better.
My husband and I decided to have Scott participate in Scouting. When he moved from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, we stepped back and held our breath. Ken had no experience in outdoor activities, so we trusted God and handed Scott off to unknown men. Thanks to prayer and perseverance, he stayed with the program, going all the way to Eagle, Scouting’s highest rank.
Scott is now thirty-four years old and has been living in his own apartment since age twenty, with the help of skills trainers. I’m one of them. He still doesn’t read or do math. He can’t understand bus schedules, but with training, he rides buses wherever he needs to go. He works three days a week at our local Goodwill Donation Center.
Scott may have the purest faith of anyone in our family. Lacking the pride and self-importance that many people have, he easily embraces the Scott plus Jesus relationship.
The Jesus factor
Some might think that having a special needs child is a raw deal. They’d be wrong. While we were earnestly guiding Scott to become the best he could be, he was bringing out the best we could be.
Scott has given us a broader perspective of 1 Corinthians 10:13, proving that Jesus plus us can meet all challenges.
*Not his real name
About the Author
Donna Scales has published stories in Evangel, Live, Seek, Purpose, Chicken Soup, and other publications, as well as devotionals in The Upper Room and The Secret Place. She has written a booklet entitled My Dictionary of Praise and enjoys praising God on her blog http://praiseposts.com. Donna lives in Lake Oswego, OR.