By Sean Cole
I am the proud parent of a special needs child and I thank God for sovereignly choosing my wife and I to be his parents. Our son Zachary has a rare chromosome disorder which causes autism and epilepsy and developmental delays. When he was first diagnosed with this disorder as a one year old, we as parents experienced all the wide range of emotions—fear, sorrow, doubt, anger, and many sleepless nights. But there was one day during the midst of this time where God showed up in power and proved His faithfulness to me. I was praying one morning crying out to God and He reminded me that I was not in charge of my son. He reminded me that he was a gift and I was only to be a steward of that gift. God was sovereign over Zachary’s life and He would glorify Himself through Zachary. In that moment, I gave up all rights to my son and offered him up to the Lord to use in whatever way He saw fit to bring the most glory to Himself.
To this day, I cannot say that at times it has been easy raising a special needs son, but there is one thing I can say—Zachary has brought me more joy than anything I can express. He is a wonderful boy with a contagious smile, an infectious curiosity, and a childlike innocence. I get the privilege of seeing a side of Zachary that nobody probably will as I tuck him in bed at night, as I feed him breakfast, as I see the joy in his eyes when he gets a new toy, or when he flaps his arms and speaks gibberish in a high pitched frenzy! I would not trade any of these precious moments as God has given Zachary to me as gift to be cherished.
He is not an “accident” or a surprise to God. He is not a “genetic mistake” or a “freak of nature”(hurtful words that have been spoken to us as parents by those who do not fully understand God’s plan).
Listen to how Psalm 139:13–14 describe my son: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” God formed Zachary and his chromosome disorder was part of God’s sovereign plan. Every person is created in the image of God and deserves respect, dignity, and compassion.
Many different groups in our culture today are complaining that they are not given “equal rights” and that they are the objects of prejudice and injustice. I do not in any way want to downplay their legitimate claims to unequal treatment, but there is one group of people in our culture that may bear the brunt of prejudice and unequal treatment more than others—people with special needs and disabilities—especially children.
Our nation prides itself on how progressive it has become in accepting those who are “different” as we “celebrate diversity”, yet I have seen firsthand how those with special needs are often ostracized, misunderstood, and sometimes actually discriminated against.
This article serves in no way to condemn our community or to cast stones or lay blame on anyone in particular. My goal in writing this it to express my joy in my son Zachary, and in God’s providence in allowing me to be his father. I also write this to encourage all of us to be more accepting of those with special needs. I encourage us all to see them as people who have dignity, value, and can contribute to society. I encourage us to see them as God sees them—as “fearfully and wonderfully made” in His image.
Zachary may not be able to talk or express his joy verbally, but I have the confidence that Jesus has given him a deep joy that I don’t think we can fully understand. I believe God has reached down in his heart to reveal Himself and that Zachary may know our Savior in a way we won’t comprehend. For that I am thankful. I am also thankful that in heaven, Zachary will be whole, complete, and in the presence of his true Father and I will have gotten the privilege to being able to raise him as his earthly father. May God receive glory in all of this and may we all be humbled by His amazing grace!