I recently read Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free an autobiography by Emily Colson with forward and epilogue by her father, Charles Colson. Like most life stories this one has lots of drama. Ms. Colson’s honesty about her internal reactions to the public displays of her son’s autistic behavior is worth the read if you want to better understand parents of special need children. If you are one of those parents it may well make you feel less alone. And it’s a fast read.
For me it raised more questions than it answered, though. Especially the need for Mr. Colson to redefine disability in the epilogue to maintain that Max is just who God created him to be and thereby not really broken at all. This is common thinking in trying to answer the whys of circumstances well beyond our control. Rather than God having created their Max, and as a matter of fact our Max, with his limitations, the temptation is to deny the obvious. God alone is able to take full responsibility for our brokenness. He is not surprised that in a fallen world people experience pain apart from the cause and effect we so often look for. We like cause and effect. It makes us feel like we’re in control. Hence the need to “fix” people and get them as quickly as possible to “normal”.
What about the circumstance in which a fix doesn’t lead to normal? Maybe it leads to better, clearly in our case it has. As it has in the book. But what if normal is beyond reach? Or more or less attainable given an endless supply of variables no computer could calculate for every circumstance to be lived through in a single hour, much less in any given day. If we aren’t able to admit disability in the most obvious cases we will be unlikely to admit our personal brokenness. We will then be tempted, even after receiving the unfathomable grace of the cross, to work out our own salvation not with fear and trembling but with a balance sheet as we attempt to set right our accounts with the Lord. We are all broken. Some of us are more obvious in our disabilities and some of us are very capable in our disguises. Without a clear ability to see the suffering in this life we will also miss the blessing of noticing the grace which surrounds us in quiet ways.
We might miss the moment when a young boy confidently proclaims the word of the Lord from Luke 2:9-10 on a Christmas Eve to a church that has prayed for him to speak, to laugh, to know the joy of fellowship and loved him even before he could do any of those things.