May 26, 2014
This One Child
“Hey, guys, it’s time to get in the car. We need to run some errands, and I really need to stop by the market to pick up some ingredients for dinner tonight. Sweetie, can you grab the diaper bag while I get my purse, my list, and this little guy?”
“Has anyone seen my keys? I thought they were on the kitchen counter.”
“No, Honey, I don’t know where your shoes are. Where did you last see them?”
“Hurry up and use the bathroom before we leave; we don’t want any accidents on the way. I know you don’t need to go, but please try anyway.”
“No, we don’t have time to ‘just stop by’ the mall to go shopping. Let’s just get our errands done, so that we can get back home in time for the little ones’ naps. Please, just get in the car!”
The chaos that accompanies leaving the house always makes me wonder if it’s worth it. How badly do we really need milk? Or diapers? I mentally review the check-list. We need gas for the car. And then I need to return the books to the library and cash a check at the bank. The last stop will be the market, where hopefully I can find some inspiration for meals for the next few days. I’m so thankful to be out of the house, albeit ever so briefly, on this beautiful summer day. My reverie is interrupted, when less than two miles from home, on a beautiful winding tree-lined road, I hear it. That unmistakable choking sound coming from the car seat behind me. And then I smell it. That unmistakable stench of formula gone sour from sitting in a little tummy too long.
And all the other kids in the car smell it too. “Ew! Gross! Quick, roll down the windows! Mo-o-om, he’s car sick again!” Gee, thank you so much for that helpful information. As if I didn’t already know.
“Can you reach the wipes? In the diaper bag? Right there, on the floor? What do you mean we don’t have the diaper bag? Really? I thought I asked you to grab the diaper bag!” Obviously our errands will need to wait for another time.
When we get back home, I’m not even sure where to start. I need to give him a bath and take out all the cornrows that I had just spent two hours putting in his hair that very morning. I need to rinse out his clothes and put them on the “sanitary” cycle in the washing machine. I need to disassemble the car seat and hose it down. But first I need to get the preschooler occupied with something else so that he doesn’t “help.”
And then the phone rings and I hear my husband’s voice, his innocent voice on the other end of the line: “Hi, Honey, I’m on my way home. What are we having for dinner tonight?” Ha! Does he seriously want me to answer that question?
This is my life. Treading the chaotic waters that describe my days. Striving for order and structure, but responding to the most urgent demands of the moment. Caring for the very basic needs of this little one, the needs that can be consuming. Getting to the end of another day and realizing that, yet again, I accomplished nothing.
This child will never know the hundreds of interruptions and the hours of care that he requires. He will never see the calendar full of medical appointments, the clipboard full of charts and logs and dosage information and emergency contact numbers for the various doctors that specialize in every part of his body. And he will never see the closet in his room filled with medications, syringes, gauze, and supplies for his medical equipment that need to be reordered every month.
In fact, this child will most likely never see anything. Or hear anything. He will most likely never sit up or feed himself or even recognize me. Me, the one who loves him like crazy. Typically-developing children require a lot of care as well, of course. However, their caregivers are frequently rewarded with smiles and hugs. They celebrate milestones. In the midst of difficult days, they can hope and dream about who their child will become some day.
With this child? Where are the rewards? He is almost two years old, and he has not reached any milestones yet. Every day I kiss his sweet face dozens of times, and never, not once has he smiled or cooed or laughed in response. Every day he needs me to help him change positions so he doesn’t get bedsores, and calculate every drop of formula to make sure he is getting enough nutrition. And wash vomit out of his hair. And when he is three and four and five-years old, he will most likely need the exact same things.
Today I can still pretend that he is a baby, a cute, cuddly baby that fits comfortably in my arms. As he continues to grow and gain weight, however, I don’t know how much longer I will be able to carry him. He is quickly outgrowing the adaptive stroller that he uses, and will soon require a wheelchair. One more step down the “special needs” path.
The elderly man at church casually commented this morning, when he saw this child lying in my arms, “Wow, now there is some dead weight.” And his words pierced my heart. Is he really dead weight? Is that all he will ever be? Am I wasting my time, caring for this child who will never develop normally despite my best efforts and most tender affection? Who will never be able to love? Who will never contribute to society? Where is the eternal value in expending all of my limited energy on a child, someone else’s child at that, who will never know Jesus?
I occasionally stumble across the statistics about the millions of orphans in the world who are longing for a mother to love them. I often hear that in our own state there are thousands of foster children waiting to be adopted into a permanent family. My church needs someone to help coordinate an orphan care ministry, a ministry that could ultimately impact the lives of many, many children! And yet, I can’t meet any of those needs. Not as long as this one child is in my home and care. As long as his many needs consume my days, I am stuck.
Couldn’t I be using my college education, my skills and my energy for something more worthwhile? Surely there is someone else who can operate a simple feeding pump and wash soiled clothing and take him to his endless appointments. Surely there are more important things I could be doing with my time.
Is that what God thinks about me? Surely there are other people with more potential than this one. More worthy of My love? More likely to succeed. I think I’ll invest my time in those other people, not in her.
Oh, how grateful that the Lord never, not for one second, has those thoughts. No! He is the Good Shepherd, the One who values that one sheep who is lost. The One who willingly leaves the ninety-nine on the hills in order to care for the one who needs Him. He seeks and tenderly cares for the weak one, the one who has no chance of making it without the Shepherd’s care. (Matthew 18:12-13)
May I become more and more like my Shepherd! I want to love like Him and serve like Him and prioritize like Him. He hasn’t called me to care for all of the other orphans in the world. He has placed this one child into my arms, and asks me to care for him. This one child is not “dead weight.” He is a treasure, a beautiful child made in the image of his Creator!
How could loving and caring for this one child ever be a waste of time? He is the one who needs me right now. As I work and serve and meet urgent needs and strive for normalcy in my home, may I remember what an honor this is. When I sit in the waiting room at yet another doctor’s appointment; when I clean him up after he has been sick; when I kiss that sweet face that will never kiss me back . . . When I give of myself to this child, this child who truly is “the least of these,” I am really giving to the Lord Himself. (Matthew 25:40) How thankful I am that I have been entrusted with the privilege of caring for this one child.