We had children, as many of you did, because it was the next natural step. We were blessed that it worked fairly easily and we were prepared for the basic social responsibilities of shelter, food, safety, and education. We figured they’d be pretty cute (we were right) and that we were above-average in our ability to handle stress (we were wrong). We knew we would pray for them and take them to church. We knew that we wanted kids.
I don’t remember discussing the “yes, but WHAT ARE THEY FOR?” part of kids… the “big picture that gets you through the mud” part. I subconsciously assumed the usual: kids teach you about God, kids keep the world going, kids pay for your nursing homes. Kids are necessary and lovely and hard.
But then Rylie was born. And then Rylie was broken. And I began to question the point of such heartache. Why have kids if it is going to be THIS HARD? Is it fair to Rylie? Is it fair to her brother? Is it fair to us?
And I became afraid. Afraid of doctors. Afraid of having more kids. Afraid of anger. Afraid of therapy. Afraid… that I could not do it and I would fail. I would fail Rylie. Afraid.
I am not, as you may think, a strong person. I am not gifted in patience or passivity. This past year with Rylie has brought me to my knees both spiritually and physically as I begged for answers and rest. Clarity and help. Motivation and a supernatural heart. Why wasn’t it coming more naturally? Wasn’t I made for this?
What was I missing? What in the world was I missing?
I had to back to the beginning.
I expected Rylie to be born… and I expected Rylie to be fine. I expected to deal with ‘girl’ emotions in junior high and heartbreak in high school. I expected to right the few wrongs of my childhood, teach her to ride a bike, and to make handmade Valentines for her Kindergarten class. She would grow up, possibly start a family of her own, and continue the circle.
I did not expect for her to be broken.
I watched my child sit through hours of intense speech therapy drills last week. I watched her perform over and over again, stumbling through language that is so easy for me. On the last day, I heard the woman demand, “Say KNEE! KNEE.”
Rylie, distracted and head down, impulsively yelled “KNEE!” She looked up, put her little hands to her little mouth, and grinned. And then she clapped. And then she yelled again, hopping in her seat. “KNEE! KNEE! KNEE!” She has never been able to say that before. I can’t wait to show you the video. It’s remarkable.
Watching that miracle from behind the glass mirror, I realized my truth: Rylie is NOT broken. She is the very image of God. God, who knows what it is to hurt. What it is to be misunderstood. What it is to have people define you by their fears. What it is to love unconditionally. Rylie is a lot of things, but she is NOT broken.
Her story does not stop at her diagnosis, and, therefore, neither does mine.
What is Rylie for? She is for redefining norms. She is for healing old hurts. She is for second-chances. She is for seeing God in a tiny little body, fighting to be heard. She is a messenger. She’s a game-changer.
I had it all wrong. And, I’m sure I will again. But I am certain that I would not have learned this lesson without my child. Not so effectively. That’s what she is for.
And I am not afraid anymore.
I am a lot of things, but I am not afraid.
Some brilliant quotes from email answers you sent in on the ‘strategy‘ post:
I can say that a good reason for having kids is WOW you really understand uncondonditional, overflowing, heart-gonna-burst-it’s-aching-so-much love. This parental love is so different than familial love or romantic love.
I see the worst of life everyday at work, and it is only though trust and faith in God that I have hope that my kids will be okay in this crazy scary world full of all the wrong choices.
I still have no clue what I want professionally or in some ways personally either! I applaud any and all who choose to be parents, there is an honor and a love that you deserve for taking on what is such a huge responsibility, and risk to your heart and soul to leave yourself vulnerable to a little life that can bring so much joy but also so much terror and fear through all that can go wrong in the world.
I heard a saying once, and I know I won’t get it right, but it was something like, “Children are proof of God’s hope for the future.”
Why would God call us to do that? First, to bring him glory through the using of our gifts in his kingdom. But secondly, because it is the hardest, most selfless (when done well…yikes…need to remind myself of that ALL the time) thing I will ever do. It reminds me of how God doesn’t respond to me when I mess up, and reminds me of how I should treat others when they sin, err or fail me. It is a huge lesson in humility, in dependence on God, and in self-sacrifice. It reminds me of the book, Sacred Marriage, and it’s principle: what if God designed marriage to make us holy rather than happy? Challenging stuff, especially in our church world today.
I am sitting here typing this with a house full of kids (well actually 2 are at school which is a beautiful thing) and for the first time in 9 years I am thinking, why did I have kids, because they don’t clean, they cost a ton on money, and half of time I’m not sure I want to claim them as my own—and surely, it isn’t proving what a wonderful person I am–NO WAY. So, I guess it has to come down to God. I had kids because God made me. I didn’t plan it–He did. He made me desire my husband and created this really strange and excitingly wonderful way to make them. And then He held me in His hands as I held them in mine–and he hasn’t let me go yet, so I haven’t let go of mine.
God’s plan for me and having kids was different from my idea, but has humbled me to not always knowing what He has planned for me. I was given a child in an unhealthy marriage and unable to have children in a healthy marriage. It is hard at times to understand the reason behind that. Having [my son] was not planned and when I think back to the circumstances it is truly a miracle. I do know that having him has taught me true love, great joy and some of the deepest pain and tears. The level of each of those emotions cannot be matched in any other relationship.
I can only imagine how much more I will want children once I am with the person that I want to have them with. I mean my goodness… They’ll be these true, living, breathing symbols of love and commitment and a marriage covenant and thinking about that makes me giggle.
All you have to do is love this baby and teach him about Jesus.
We wanted to have kids so that there would be more nice people in the world. We figured that we are both nice, we would be nice to our children and therefore they would probably be nice also. So far I think that [our daughter] is a positive addition.