White collar. Blue collar. No collar at all.
Some are just starting down this journey. Others have been on this road for many years.
Some are youthful, energetic, and engaged. Others are tired, weary, and passive.
I look around the room and down the table and I’m struck by the thought that most of us wouldn’t even know each other if it weren’t for the one thing we have in common.
We are special need dads. Here for a meal together and to some spend some down time.
We’ve all been chosen and called by God- given a mission for our lives. But we’ve not all accepted or embraced that mission.
We’re all at different places and different spaces in this journey. For some us, we’ve braced for the challenges and we are determined to fulfill our God-given mission. But others are mired down in anger, denial, and bitterness- still struggling to find the purpose in any of this.
As I look around at my band of brothers I take a silent inventory. And as I do, I find myself dividing my fellow dads into three camps.
Those who chose the road marked “How’” those who chose the road marked “Why,” and those who stand at the fork unsure of which road to take.
The path of raising a child with special needs takes many twists, many turns, and covers some tough terrain. The road that a dad chooses makes the difference in life and death. The difference is in accepting God’s mission, and choosing to abandon it all together.
How Dads and Why Dads
“Why” dads spend their lives wondering why everything in their lives happened. Why am I struggling with this? Why did that happen? What did I do to deserve this? Why is my life so hard and so unfair? They always feel victimized or as if someone is to be blamed. They never find the answers to the questions and so they live forever in anger, denial, frustration, and bitterness. They will spend the the rest of their lives circling around the questions, and soon, lose their way out of “Why.”
In this journey raising a child with special needs, the road to understanding “Why” is a dead-end road. You will wander aimlessly in circles instead of climbing out of the emotional pit.
The “Why” man dies emotionally, relationally, and spiritually, well before his time comes. And when his death does come, he will die having never having found the answers he was looking for the whole time. He will the same way he had lived- bitter, angry, and sad. His tombstone might as well be engraved, “Here lies another vacant dad.”
The dad who chooses the right path soon finds himself entering into the land of “How” people. He makes the great decision to become a “How” person himself.
The pivotal choice is to choose to be a “How” person. “How” people respond to their challenges and trials by asking, “How can goodness come out of this situation? How can God redeem this and use it for his purposes? How can God be glorified by my response here? How can I rise above this?” “How can I fulfill this mission God has placed me on? how can I be the warrior, protector, provider, encourager, and equipper that God has called me to be for my family?”
That shift in perspective changes everything in this life. Now, everything will sense to him. He will realize God is telling his story through his life and his child’s life. This was not to be his story, but rather God’s story.
Through the telling of his story, God will teach him us about unconditional love, the abundance of grace, the essence of a gift, and the meaning of a selfless life.
He will learn that his joy is not dependent upon his circumstances. God has chosen him for this and called him with a plan and purpose for his life. His joy will be dependent on who he is with Christ. recognizes that if he tries to place his joy in anything other than his relationship and standing with Christ, he will never find everlasting, unstoppable, un-quenching joy.
The “How” dad lives happily ever after with his special-needs family. His life still has challenges, but he can find contentment and joy with his journey. He believes he had been chosen and called, and he remained committed.
I was a “Why” dad for many years until I allowed the Guide to lead me out of the wilderness and back onto the right path to “How.”
And so a choice has to be made. The mission begins when a man stands where the path diverges, and chooses to accept the mission God has for him. “How” or “why?”