I was sitting across the table from myself.
I actually was sitting across the table from a dad who just learned of his child’s diagnosis and was just starting on this special needs journey.
As I listened to him open up and share what he felt and how this news was affecting him, I couldn’t help but think, “This guy is me 15 years ago.”
I could anticipate his every statement. I knew the next question he was going to ask. His every emotion, his every doubt, his every fear, his every thought-I was hearing my own story through his mouth.
He thinks this wasn’t the plan. This isn’t what he chose for his life or the path he would have taken. He’s angry, he’s bitter, he’s discouraged, and he’s looking for someone to blame.
He is torn between blaming God, and blaming himself.
And he feels all alone.
He had ran into a mutual acquaintance of ours who he had not seen in over 20 years. This friend had told him a little bit about me, and my story.
So here we were now, sitting across the table from each other in a fast food restaurant.
We talked for quite a while. I didn’t try to answer any of the questions going through his mind.
As we continue to meet and get to know each other, I’ll begin to share with him a little more about how God called him to this and has chosen him. I’ll teach him that his child was created for a plan and a purpose. And I’ll talk about the God who is going to use his child and their story for his glory.
I will help him see his child as his greatest gift and biggest blessing. I’ll help him thrive even though this new journey is going to be extremely challenging and difficult.
I will show him that “normal” is whatever you decide “normal” is. I’ll reveal to him that the greatest gifts are the unexpected ones. And the best plans are the ones ordained in heaven, not the ones dreamed up on earth.
All that in due time.
But not yet.
Because right now he just needs to realize a couple of simple truths, and so I chose to focus on two things with him.
1) “You aren’t alone. There is a whole community of us out there and we are here for one another, and for you.”
2) “I’m 15 years further down this path than you, and I’m here to tell you it’s going to be OK. Not easy, but fulfilling in it’s own way. You’re going to be OK.”
In looking back at myself 15 years ago, that’s what I wish someone would have taught me. That’s what I needed to hear and cling to when it happened to me.
And so that’s where I started with him.
And when he is ready to receive the other stuff, I’ll begin by telling him of a God who loves him so much that he orchestrated a run in with an old acquaintance of his who just so happened to know of me and gave me a call.
A God who purposed to put me in the chair across the table from him so that I could help him find his own purpose.
A God who used my son’s disability, my son’s cerebral palsy and autism, and my son’s life to help me discover my own purpose in life.
Because in 15 years someone else is going to start down the path of raising a child with special needs. And that new dad is going to be overwhelmed and desperately need help.
And my hope is that my new friend is going to sit across the table from him and say, “You are not alone. I’m 15 years further down this path from you, and it’s going to be OK.”