The Life You Never Expected
I’ve just finished reading a book called ‘The Life You Never Expected: Thriving While Parenting Special Needs Children’ by a couple called Andrew & Rachel Wilson who are parents to two young children with autism.
We read it as a youth & families team to review at a training day with other youth & families workers in and around London, and also to help us know better how we can support and care for families with children with disabilities. Here are some of my highlights about the book...
I think I was expecting the book to be a series of top tips on what to do and what not to do, but it wasn’t. Though that might have been helpful, every child is different, so a one-rule-fits-all isn’t really realistic. Instead the book is a raw story of one family striving to trust Jesus and depend on Him amidst often difficult and unpredictable circumstances. The book would be an absolute encouragement to any family with children with disabilities, but also a fantastic resource for any parent. In fact, great for anyone! The way Andrew and Rachel Wilson engage with questions of pain, suffering and weakness, as well as surprising joys and delights, is incredibly honest and helpful, as they point us to finding our joy and solace fully in God.
The chapters are small and split into sections titled: Weeping – Worshipping – Waiting – Witnessing – And Breathe. Perfect for anyone needing a bite-size encouragement to point them to Jesus. It’s also perfect for families who may feel isolated in their differences from other families or feel like they need to hide their family away. For that reason, it’s also perfect for any Christian, so that we know how we can best serve and love those families and celebrate their essential part in the body of Christ.
In talking of some of the daily, repetitive and unglamorous sacrifices they have to make, Rachel says this, ‘Parenting in a daily ‘willingly-laying-down-your-life’ way is a powerful opportunity to reflect and enact what the gospel truly is.’ To prefer another’s needs above our own, no matter the cost, is a small picture and reminder of the extravagant, undeserved grace and love Christ Jesus showed us in His sacrifice on the cross.
Their honest descriptions and questions about facing pain and disappointment aren’t written with the aim to tie our lives up in a neat little bow and give us all the answers, but to show that Christ is enough. They point to the Psalms as showing that God knows we need to take our pain to Him and find our joy and satisfaction in Him. Andrew writes this,
‘We worship a crying God: a God who became like us, and suffered bereavement and loss, and wept at gravesides, and cried out in anguish as He died. So when we experience suffering, and face all the unanswered ‘why?’s, we may never know what the answer is – but we know for sure what the answer isn’t. It isn’t because God doesn’t love us. It isn’t because God doesn’t care. It isn’t because He is distant, or unsympathetic, or cold, or merciless...Although I will never understand all that He’s doing, I know that He isn’t doing it because He doesn’t love me. The cross proves that.’
Both Rachel and Andrew emphasise that whatever circumstances we face, our priority must be to love the Lord Jesus and to pursue happiness in Him. And when we do, He colours and shapes everything, satisfying our restless, weary hearts.
I heartily recommend the book to you, whatever your circumstance or situation. It will lift your gaze to be fixed on Jesus, help you long for the New Creation and know that your Father in heaven is for you.
Last quote, (honest!): ‘...yes, today, I am spent. But in the gospel, I am rich.’
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