I can remember back 15 years ago when we were expecting Jon Alex, and our friends and family were hosting baby showers for us. One of the first presents we received as expectant new parents was a memory book to record your child’s milestones.
The book had places to record the circumstances around the date your child rolled over for the first time, crawled for the first time, laughed for the first time, sat up on their own, and walked and talked for the first time.
I can remember all the conversations between parents discussing when their own children hit those developmental milestones. They compared notes, spoke so proudly of their own children, and regaled us with those memories.
I also remember a few years later wanting with everything in me to burn that book.
My son had profound special needs and wouldn’t hit some of those milestones for years while others he may never achieve.
First word? He’s 14 and I’m still waiting, hoping, and praying for that one.
Those of you with a child with special needs know the emotions I’m talking about. Autism, cerebral palsy, and other disabilities rob us of those memories, or deny them to us for so long.
Early on I would have to politely leave the room when friends began talking about the latest milestone their child had reached. My emotions were so intensely raw and so on edge, I couldn’t bear to hear them talk about little Bobby’s latest accomplishment.
I really thought those feelings would go away someday. I really did. For the most part they have gone away. For the most part I have compartmentalized those emotions and feelings. I’ve put them in a quarantined section of my heart where I don't allow admittance.
But now that Jon Alex is a teenager, I find myself fighting them all over again.
Every dad dreams of helping his son “come of age.” It’s a right of passage that goes back to the origins of man. We dream of helping our sons transition into manhood.
Teaching them to drive a car.
Teaching them how to knot a tie.
Teaching then how to handle money.
Attempting to teach them how to handle women, (pretending we know the answer ourselves.)
Teaching them responsibility and accountability.
Teaching them our values, our faith, and our virtues.
And teaching them how to shave.
That’s the one that tripped me up this week.
As my son turns 15 next month his facial hair is coming in strong. The basic formations of a little mustache already appear over his upper lip. So we just bought an electric razor for his birthday next month.
But instead of teaching him how to shave, I am coming to terms that I will be the one shaving him for the rest of my life. Every day, I will shave myself, and then attempt to shave my special needs son.
Or try out for the cast of Duck Dynasty.
It’s a bag of twisted and thorny emotions when a dad realizes he will have to shave his son for the rest of his life. And my son absolutely hates having anything near his face, certainly not touching it.
This morning I was in a real funk so I went home and went before the Lord. I didn’t say anything at all, I just needed to sit in his presence and hope he would speak to me.
As I did the Lord brought to my mind the image of Christ right before his betrayal and death. He was in the Upper Room with his disciples for the last time. What did he do? What did he need them to know the most? What was the most important lesson they had to learn?
“After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. “ (John 13:5)
In that moment God revealed to me that he has called me to lay down my life to serve my son. That shaving my son every day is a simple way of emulating Christ. That in effect, I am picking up my own towel and basin and becoming more Christ-like thorough that simple act.
And every day I will have a choice. I can wallow in self-pity that I have to do this for him. Or I can be grateful that the Lord has given my a daily reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and how he laid down his own life for me.
I know what I will choose.
Chosen, called, committed.-- Jeff