Last night, when my son was finished eating dinner (he’d been seated at the coffee table in the living room, because we were watching TV while we ate), he stood up and walked to his bedroom.
I just paused after writing that sentence and got teary-eyed. I’m pretty sure that sentence echoed throughout the universe. Did you hear the echo? You may be wondering why such an ordinary, everyday event would resound with thunderous impact.
You see, my son has Cerebral Palsy and a sensory processing disorder. He has endured rigorous physical therapy since he was 10 months old. When he was about three, I was told he would need to be wheelchair-bound. Since all the testing we had done had shown no actual problem with his muscles, but rather with how his brain communicated with his muscles, I wasn’t ready to accept that. I felt his muscles could be taught how to walk and his brain could learn the neurological pathways needed to do this critical thing. To this day I thank God that he gave me the guts to reject the words that certain medical professionals spoke over him. We continued with physical therapy, adding horseback riding therapy when he turned four. Around that time, we had our first major breakthrough. He was finally willing to put weight on his legs and learned how to walk in his walker.
That’s when I knew he would walk one day. I didn’t know when, or how, but my dream of him walking independently really began to flourish that day, just after he turned four and he walked across our living room in his walker for the first time.
Now, I would be lying if I didn’t mention all the grieving that happened during those years, and which continues to catch me when I least expect it even today. Watching most of the dreams you had for your child die…and new ones taking their place. Instead of a dream of him playing baseball…I dreamed he would walk one day. Instead of the dream of a social little guy playing and talking with his friends…I dream of one day hearing him say “I love you, mama”. Instead of the dream of him heading off to kindergarten, climbing the bus steps with a cute little backpack on his back…we got to purchase a custom wheelchair for him to ride to and from school in on a special bus. I dream instead of that vision becoming a reality down the road, maybe in second or fourth or sixth grade.
Ultimately, I had to come to peace with the fact that my son may never walk, never talk, never live independently. It was, and is, a strange tension in which to live. Finding contentment in the here and now, and seeing perfection where the world sees brokenness; yet not giving up, not settling for the status quo, always moving forward in faith and hope. Which reminds me a whole lot of the very definition of faith, found in Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
I’ve tried for seven years now to find that balance between contentment and gratitude for today, and certainty and perserverance towards an unknown future. Some days I do better than others. A watershed moment for me was the summer of 2013, when I had a complete physical breakdown and ended up in bed for two months. I learned I had been wallowing in self-pity and a lack of gratitude and contentment in my circumstances, which made every day torturous. I had also been putting all the pressure on myself to “fix” Caleb, rather than putting him in the hands of his heavenly Father and letting go. It had affected my health so dramatically that it was clear I had to change. Since that time, I’ve learned a lot about being content today while still working towards the future. It’s a constant struggle, but God has new grace for me every day and I take hold of it like a thirsty person in the desert grabs for water.
So. Last night. My son got up and nochalantly walked from one room to another, without holding on to anything. No walker, no holding on to furniture or walls, and definitely no wheelchair. This comes just two days after he started showing willingness to practice walking with me in his bedroom (you may have seen the video on Facebook). He’s had the ability for a while now, but he’s lacked the confidence. He’s lacked the desire to overcome his fear…but, no longer!
I am well aware that there are so many children with special needs who will never walk. I don’t know why God chose to make this miracle part of Caleb’s story, and not part of others. I definitely plan on asking him that when I get to heaven. But I DO know that he has done an amazing thing for my boy and I want to tell the whole world about it.
When I led worship on Sunday I taught our church a new-to-us song, “Ever Be”. The chorus lyrics are, “Your praise will ever be on my lips / ever be on my lips / Your praise will ever be on my lips / ever be on my lips”. (My son absolutely loves hearing me sing this song, and ironically, it’s one of my other prayers for him – that our God would release Caleb’s speech so that he can speak words of praise to Jesus. I am content…but I am praying and hoping and not giving up!)
Having already chosen that song for Sunday, I opened my Bible to Psalm 34 Sunday morning and came upon verse 1: “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” How cool is that? I ended up reading the first several verses of Psalm 34 during the service as well. Little did I know that just a few hours after leading that song and reading that psalm, my boy would walk independently and intentionally for the first time! Verse 2 says, “My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.”
As I read these verses again this morning, I knew that’s what I had to do. Boast in the Lord. I am full-on bragging today and I’m not even sorry. Our God heals, he rescues, he enables, he dismantles fear. He listens to our heartfelt prayers. Verse 4 says, “I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” That’s exactly what he’s done for my son! God is removing his fear of falling, one little step at a time. God is proving to be bigger than fear, bigger than disability, bigger than grief, bigger than doubt, bigger than anxiety, bigger than weakness, bigger than me.
Verse 8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” I have tasted much in life that is bitter; but I’m here to testify that the Lord is GOOD!
Verse 18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” This has been me, so many times: brokenhearted and crushed…and not just about my son’s disabilities, but my own health troubles, betrayal by loved ones, grief in pregnancy loss, etc. He has been close to me every step of the way. He has brought joy to me even after it seemed my mourning would never end. He is, indeed, good. So, so good. I have a little boy walking around to prove it.
And his praise will ever be on my lips.