In my June 21 sermon, I made reference to a profound insight that actor Michael J. Fox, who has suffered for many years from early-onset Parkinson’s, shared in an Esquire magazine interview:
My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations. Acceptance is the key to everything.
Of course, from a Christian point of view, acceptance doesn’t mean acquiescing to fate with Stoic courage. It means—and I swallow hard when I say this—appreciating that God’s hand is in this. God has a purpose for allowing this unplanned, often unwanted event to occur. In other words, this experience is, or can be, good for us.
Pastor and theologian Andrew Wilson explores this theme in some depth in this fine post about rearing two autistic children. Having children with special needs, he writes, is like receiving an actual orange for dessert, when the rest of your friends received a chocolate orange.
Special needs, like the orange, are unexpected. We didn’t plan for them, and we didn’t anticipate them. Because our children are such a beautiful gift, we often feel guilty for even saying this, but we might as well admit that we didn’t want our children to have autism, any more than we wanted them to have Down’s, or cerebral palsy, or whatever else. Give or take, we wanted pretty much what our friends had: children who crawled at one, talked at two, potty trained at three, asked questions at four, and went off to mainstream school at five. We could have lived quite happily without knowing what Piedro boots were for, or what stimming was, or how to fill out DLA forms. So there are times, when we’re wiping the citric acid out of our eyes and watching our friends enjoying their chocolate, when it feels spectacularly unfair, and we wish we could retreat to a place where everyone had oranges, so we wouldn’t have to fight so hard against the temptation to comparison-shopping and wallowing in self-pity. We know that oranges are juicy in their own way. We know that they’re good for us, and that we’ll experience many things that others will miss. But we wish we had a chocolate one, all the same.