On August 5th, it will have been three years since that fateful day at the ocean that changed our lives forever. Three years since our youth department decided to change the date and location of what should have been a fun-filled day trip with the teenagers. Three years since many of our young people lost their naive belief in their immunity to harm. Three years since our family, our youth group, our church, our nation, our world saw the power of prayer. Three years since our God showed His mighty power over death.
It's been three years of pain, prayer, patience, and persistence. Those first days of wondering whether Dale would ever wake up or what condition he would be in if he did. The endless, continual, fervent shaking of Heaven's gates by those closest to us and people whom we'll never meet this side of eternity, begging God to spare Dale's life while remaining firm in the belief that His way is always best. The incredible joy when Dale opened his eyes long after the doctors had given up hope. The subsequent weeks of hospital care and in-patient speech, occupational, and physical therapy, trying to help Dale remember how to do what should come naturally to a twelve-year-old boy. Those first months home from the hospital, juggling therapy and school and caring for our son, thinking he may never talk on his own again, may never not need help in the bathroom again, may never smile again.
There have been a multitude of times when we've wanted to quit. Times when Dale seems to take one step forward, two steps back. Times when our constant efforts are nowhere near enough. Times when Dale himself just won't try any more; he's so tired of hearing the same reminders to keep his head up, to pull his shoulders back, to not lunge forward with his right leg and make his left play keep up. Times, especially lately, when it seems all he wants to do is watch TV or play video games. Times when we grow frustrated or get angry or just plain cry, knowing full well that anger or words or tears are not going to solve anything. Times when we wonder why God answered our prayers to save our son's life, only to leave us with a physically handicapped, slow-speaking, memory-challenged lump of flesh who thinks we are supposed to do all the work to help him walk and think and learn and grow.
Sounds harsh, doesn't it? Yes, it does. Those of you who have had to face similar challenges know exactly how we feel. We love our son and wouldn't trade him for the world---but sometimes we wish we could get a day off. Sometimes his sisters wish they could just be normal teenagers again without having to constantly look out for their brother or help their brother or do their brother's chores or be embarrassed when their brother falls down in the parking lot for the millionth time because he won't listen when they tell him to stand up straight and walk the way he's been taught. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to worry about rearranging his subjects at school to give him a chance to pass his classes so he can at least graduate from high school. Or assist him into and out of the bathtub. Or wash his hair for him. Or chide him about brushing his teeth better. Or any of the hundreds of things that come up each day that Dale can no longer do because of the accident, like washing the dishes or carrying laundry upstairs or clearing off the table or helping with the chores or walking around a store on his own. I imagine Chad sometimes wishes his only son could actually carry on the family name or work on the car with him or challenge him to a game of horse or help out in the yard. It's tough having a handicapped child, and there is no nice way to say that.
It's been three years since our family's sense of well-being was traumatically altered, but it's also been three years since we near-physically felt the hand of God on us. It's been three years since we learned we are not impervious to danger just because we are Christians, but it's also been three years since God proved He listens and He cares. It's been three years since we looked death in the face, but it's also been three years since God granted our son new life. It's been three years since our world was shattered, but it's also been three years since we learned anew that this world is not our home. You see, each day is a gift from God. What we do with that gift is up to us. Our patience is daily tried; our limits are constantly tested; our strength sometimes fails; our endurance will occasionally falter; our attitude will at times be poor……..but our God is everlasting, never-changing, always loving, ever-giving, perfectly right. When our patience runs out, He is there. When we have reached our limits, He is there. When our strength fails, He is there. When our endurance flags, He is there. When our attitude is not Christ-like, He is there. God is our constant; He is our strength; He is our very present help in trouble. You may see us get upset or angry with our son sometimes, but you will never see us angry with God or blaming Him as if His miracle isn't good enough for us. God knows what is best, and He knows His children. He only gives us what we can handle; and when we can't handle it, He's there to hold us close and rock us gently until we feel better. The only way we get through each day---and the yawning stretch of endless days ahead like this one---is by remembering what awaits us in Heaven. There will come a day when I will see my son run down the golden street. For this moment, today, I can trust God and His miracle and thank Him for all He's done for us.
Psalm 86: 9-10 "All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O LORD; and shall glorify Thy name. For Thou are great, and doest wondrous things: Thou art God alone."