Thursday, September 15, 2016

Special Needs

"Special Needs".
The phrase hits a raw spot with people.  It either makes them shift somewhat uncomfortably as they would rather steer conversation in a different direction or it strikes to the core of life experiences of parents, children, or loved ones who have lived the fullness of its challenges out. 

For me it does both. 

I find that I fully embrace the fact that special needs entered our lives in the form of adoption and foster care.  I am thankful that where I might have once shied away from the topic I now daily live it to the point I don't even recognize it.  In fact the phrase has a somewhat jarring effect on my psyche as I have to be reminded that I have a son that is deemed special needs.  To me, he is amazing.  He has challenges, he has issues, he has problems.  But I haven't run into a child, or an adult for that matter, who doesn't.  You just have to get past the facade on some a little more than others to see them. 

There are phrases that I grew up with that might have once been used to describe my son.  I hate those phrases.  They still exist and are still used in conversations by well meaning people with innocent intentions.  When inappropriately used or applied the words can be demeaning and vicious and strike a nerve with those of us who have children with challenges.

But the term special needs is deemed much more polite, more palatable.  Again, it jars my ears to hear it applied to my own as I often forget I deal with a special needs child daily.  The labels are an irritant to me.  When I look at him I don't see special needs.  I see life.  I see joy.  He is funny.  He is opinionated.  He is intelligent, and clever.  He takes a different route to get to the same ending but he gets there, often better than most.  But most importantly, I see my son.

In these writings, I recently referenced a little girl that I met not too long ago in an international adoption program who was deemed special needs.  In that particular post entitled Behind the Eyes, I recounted my sadness that her particular issues were enough to turn people away from the prospect of even considering her for adoption.  Like my son, she has challenges.  Like my son, she is amazing, has a fascinating personality and intellect.  And like my son, she has good days and she has bad days.

Each one of us can picture at least one or several individuals, child or adult, who fit into the category special needs.  Ponder for a moment what challenges placed them in that category.  Is it cognitive?  Is it physical?  Is it emotional?  Regardless of the answer, the same truth permeates throughout - not one of them had a choice in the matter.  Not a single one.

Not one chose speech difficulty.  Not one chose cognitive delay.  Not one purposed to be physically challenged.  Yet at some point in their lives, each and every one of them will be judged for their challenges, put on trial in someone else's mind for their difficulties.  Sounds unfair doesn't it?  In fact, it sounds somewhat horrific.  But haven't we each done something similar at some point or other?  I know I have.

Do not judge and criticize and condemn others unfairly with an attitude of self-righteous superiority as though assuming the office of a judge, so that you will not be judged unfairly. For just as you hypocritically judge others when you are sinful and unrepentant, so will you be judged; and in accordance with your standard of measure used to pass out judgment, judgment will be measured to you.
Matthew 7:1-2 AMP

We are all special needs when it comes down to it.  As stated above, some of us have better facades than others, but at the core we're all deficient, incomplete people who need help.  We were born this way.  It wasn't our choice.  We couldn't help it.  We still can't.  We were born into a sin infested world with sin all over us and we all still get tripped up by it.  That's not a free pass for bad choices - it's a fact that keeps all of us from perfection this side of eternity.  Everyone of us will screw up, step on someone, hurt the ones we love, and ultimately get it wrong at some point. 

That is where grace, forgiveness, and love are so, so, necessary - a lifeline in a sea of hopelessness.  Covering every spiritual deficiency, the cross put each of us in right standing.  Were we to be judged for the condition we were born into, not one of us would survive the outcome, yet because of the ultimate sacrifice of love each one of us can now know the perfect love of a Father who turned creation on its head to redeem and heal us from that state. 

That is also why scriptures such as the one above carry so much weight.  Given that the only truly pure and perfect being in existence up heaved the heavens and hells by this sacrifice to redeem his beloved, there is no room at this table for us to look at a single other person in judgment.  No room to point out the deficiencies of others, no room to point out another's weaknesses or rail against another's flaws.  For every grace and sacrifice has been extended to each of us.  We are, therefore, to extend likewise because we have no right to do anything other.  To point out another's deficiencies in judgment is to ignore the fact that we will all ultimately have our own deficiencies judged with the same measure we judge, criticize, and condemn others. 

This is where we all have a special need
 - for mercy
 - for grace
 - for compassion
 - for love
from each other, but most importantly from our Father above. 

I am so thankful, He doesn't define us by our special needs - he only sees his beautiful child.

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