I know you.
I recognize your face from when we were shaving this morning.
You’re the man in the mirror.
I see things in your reflection that others don’t see or grasp.
Everyone sees that you are a special-needs dad. They see your smiles, they hear your words, and they enjoy your sense of humor and quick wit.
But when we shave in the morning, I see you without the mask.
Today was pretty rough wasn’t it?
Snowed in with a ravaging case of cabin fever, you sat and endlessly looked at pictures of typical dads with their typical kids playing in the snow.
Sledding, building snowmen, throwing snowballs– all the stuff dads do with their kids when it snows in the South and schools are closed.
You died over and over again today didn’t you?
Every picture was another reminder that you and your son can’t participate in those activities because of his disabilities. Every Facebook post cut your wounds open again and you bled for the life you once envisioned, and can not have now.
You even shed some silent tears, as you remembered your own father taking you sledding as a boy.
You’ve been doing that a lot lately, haven’t you?
Last week, when your son was going to his first ever dance, a special-needs prom, you got him a tuxedo and tied his fancy tie for him in preparation.
For a few minutes, you basked in the moment.
A proud moment.
Every dad remembers the day his father helps him knot his first tie. You were meticulous in the details. You were so proud.
For one moment, you felt like a typical dad again. You participated in a moment to which all dads can relate. You even got choked up and you leaned over and kissed your son’s forehead.
But when no one else could see it, I saw the Black Dog walk into the room. I told you I see things only the man in the mirror sees.
I saw the Black Dog wrap itself around your mind, and your momentary joy was snatched away from you in an instant.
You started thinking about how your son will never wear a tie at his wedding because he will never get married. That thought made you think about how you will never have grandchildren, as he is your only child.
Your thoughts spiraled out of control after that as the Black Dog began to howl.
No one else heard it. But it was deafening to you, wasn’t it?
It reminded you of the question you ask yourself every day.
I hear you ask it to yourself when we shave in the morning. I hear you think about it at night when everyone else is asleep, and you lie there alone with your thoughts, the Black Dog at your feet.
I know it haunts you.
“Who will take care of your son after you die and are gone?”
“He needs me, what will he ever do without me?”
The man in the mirror has a choice to make. We all have a choice to make.
Today the man in the mirror made the right choice.
The Bible is full of stories where God send someone into the wilderness in order to ultimately have an encounter with God.
Time and time again, people experienced periods in the wilderness only to eventually find God’s presence, God’s peace, and God’s protection and provision in the dry deserts of their lives.
There are two responses to times wandering in the desert. You can choose to be grateful, or you can choose to be angry and bitter.
One choice leads to life. One leads to death.
The man in the mirror sometimes ventures into the wilderness.
“O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1-2)
Today the man in the mirror chose life. He chose gratitude as the path out of the wilderness.
He chose to celebrate the experiences he did have with his son, and not lament the experience he will not have. He thought about their time today swinging, smiling, and eating popcorn together. A day that ended with 45 minutes of singing to his son and speaking blessings over him as they prayed.
He found joy, contentment, and happiness in the simple fact that God gifted him to be a father. God chose him and called him to be a special-needs dad. He rejoiced that in the wilderness moments of his thoughts, God always show up and always provides.
Tonight, the man in the mirror will vanquish the black dog outside the house of his thoughts.
Tonight, he will lie down and say to God, “Thank you for waking me up today, and giving me one more day to be my son’s dad.”
And he will be grateful.
(I published this piece originally earlier this week at comfortinthemidstofchaos.com where I am a monthly contributor.)