…Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Heb. 12:1-2, NLT)
A special group of moms sat around a large table at our local Mexican restaurant the other night. We call ourselves MOST (Moms Of Special Treasures). Our kids, whose ages currently span from lower elementary to their upper twenties, all have special-needs challenges. Their diagnoses cover a broad range of syndromes and disorders: Down syndrome; autism spectrum disorder; reactive attachment disorder; unspecified seizure disorder; bipolar disorder; schizophrenia; as well as a few very rare disorders that have resulted in intellectual and/or physical impairments. Some of our children are in the public school, some in private school, some homeschooled. Our kids are in elementary school, middle school, high school and post-high.
In spite of the vast differences between our children and ourselves, we moms all have one thing in common. We all deeply love our children and are intensely, compassionately committed to them.
Given the fact that it’s late August, much of the conversation around the table focused on school issues: IEP’s and team meetings; wonderful teachers who truly seem to understand our children (and us); difficult teachers who are unbending and don’t seem to grasp the reality of what our children need; problems with bullying; and the increasing (painful) spread between our child and his/her peers.
Our conversation brought us into other topics, as well. We talked about sibling struggles—not only sibling rivalry, but also the challenge of how to prioritize our time to meet the needs of all of our kids. We recognize and understand the attention our child with special needs requires, but we get frustrated and sad when we feel as if we’re neglecting our other children. How are we to best walk this tight-rope in our families?
We touched on the subject of church youth groups (especially middle school and high school) and how some of our kids won’t be going because it’s just too difficult and too much—from a sensory standpoint, as well as for other reasons.
Those of us with older children (post-high) gave updates on jobs, living situations, funding struggles, housing concerns, worries about drug abuse, among other things.
I’m one of the older moms in our group. My son is well into adulthood and is no longer living in our home. So my perspective at this stage of life is from a slightly different vantage point. When it comes to school issues, I feel a bit like one who has “come out on the other side.” Even though we still deal with a never-ending variety of issues and concerns, we are past those intense, school-age years. As I listened to the conversation swirling around the table, I thought of how proud I am of these moms. Their intense love for their children and their desire to see them succeed in life is beautiful. These moms of special treasures are pretty amazing!
These moms are realistic, yet filled with hope.
These moms know their kids.
These moms know how to cry, vent and grieve, but also how to laugh and have fun.
These moms have the ammunition to give lots of real-life examples followed by the phrase, “You can’t make this stuff up!” (punctuated with groans and lots of incredulous laughter).
These moms are the very definition of patience, endurance and perseverance.
As I spent some time the next morning thinking about our conversation and praying for these moms, this passage came to mind: “…Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NLT)
Other translations of the same passage use these words or phrases in place of the word endurance: perseverance; patience; active, steady persistence; determination; “never give up.”
I looked up the word for endurance in the original Greek. According to the Strong’s Concordance*, the word is Hypomone and, not surprisingly, it means all of the words listed above. It also means “patient continuance.” That definition resonated deeply within me. Patient continuance. That’s it. That is what so many moms and dads of children with special needs are blessed with — patient continuance.
These special parents continue to love and guide their children with patient continuance as the days unfold into weeks, weeks into years, years into decades and decades into a lifetime. There’s typically no “aging out” of a mental health diagnosis or an intellectual disability or a severe physical impairment.
From time to time, in this very special group of moms, we’ve talked about ways our children’s lives look quite different from their peers. We’ve also acknowledged that our lives look quite different from our peers, as well. We may have children living in our homes for much, much longer than 18 years. We may not be able to get away for weekends or special vacations with our spouse, at least not without hours of extra planning and preparation. We may need to become our child’s legal guardian and conservator, thus continuing the role of “active parenting” well into adulthood. We may never get from under the necessary evil of PAPERWORK! We may find ourselves moving from school IEPs (individual education plan) to adult ICPs (individual care plan). We may go from helping our young child manage their school work to helping our adult child manage his money. We may move from compassionately dealing with our young child’s school-aged bullying, to encouraging our adult child in his loneliness and desire for close friendships.
It’s crucial to note, though, that the writer of Hebrews highlighted one very important caveat necessary for our ability to run with patient continuance: “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus…”
Jesus shows us how to live and walk our difficult journeys with perseverance. He never lost sight of His purpose on earth and kept his gaze focused on “that exhilarating finish in and with God” (Heb. 12:2, MSG translation). When we, in turn, keep our eyes on Jesus and follow His example of relentless love, we will be able to not only endure, but even thrive along the way. If we are running the race God has chosen for us, He promises to give us the grace—and the faith— we need for any challenge we encounter. Warren Wiersbe** wrote, “Jesus is both the exemplar and the enabler! As we see Him in the Word and yield to His Spirit, He increases our faith and enables us to run the race.”
Keep your eyes on Jesus! He promises to help you run your race well.
*The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Zondervan, 2001), #5281
**Warren Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT (David C. Cook, 2007), p 839.
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