My husband had been hired as the pastor at a new church in Pennsylvania. We had been at there for just a few weeks when we went to the church’s Super Bowl party. One of our boys was just over two-years-old and the other was six months. Our older son was playing and running around the room, tripping over the cord that plugged the projector into the outlet.
The big game flickered and the crowd reacted, hoping they wouldn’t miss the big play. I grabbed our son’s arm and raised my voice at him, not noticing that many there were watching us instead of the game. On the way home that night I told my husband, “Well, now the entire church knows. Their new pastor’s wife isn’t perfect and neither are his kids. Think they’ll fire us already?”
I was kidding about getting fired of course, but I wasn’t kidding about the pressure I felt to be perfect. I wanted to appear perfect in front of our church. I wanted to appear perfect on our homeschooling blog. I wanted to appear perfect on Facebook.
I had always felt pressure to be perfect. My older sister has Down Syndrome, and because she wasn’t perfect, I felt more pressure to be. I wanted to get perfect grades, have perfect church attendance, and to make my parents perfectly proud. That pressure I put on myself as a child had followed me into adulthood.
But then God gave me a gift that shattered my dreams of perfection.
Our younger son was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. He wouldn’t potty train perfectly. He wouldn’t speak perfectly. He wouldn’t hold a pencil perfectly. He wouldn’t smile perfectly for blog and Facebook pictures. He wouldn’t sit next to me on the pew perfectly and listen to his daddy preach.
Everywhere we went, everything we did, people would know he wasn’t perfect. And if he wasn’t perfect, then neither was I.
Instead of feeling pressure to make him fit into the typical-kid mold, I found freedom through his imperfections.
It didn’t happen right away. But when I saw how my friends treated him like he was one of their own kids, when I saw our family rejoice with us over little accomplishments, when I saw our church become inclusive for kids with lots of different special-needs, I realized all those people loved him just the way he was. He didn’t have to live up to any standards. He didn’t have to reach every goal. And if he didn’t have to, neither did I.
James 1:17 says every good and perfect gift is from God. What I realized through my son’s diagnosis was that even autism, when seen from God’s perspective, is a good and perfect gift from Him. I was given the gift of imperfection, and was able to release the pressure I was putting on myself and on my family to live up to an impossible standard. For that gift, I’m still giving thanks.
Your Turn: What “imperfect gift” has God blessed you with?
Sandra is a pastor’s wife and mom to three boys. She and her husband recently released Held: Learning to Live in God’s Grip (a Bible study for special needs parents). You can connect with her on her site sandrapeoples.com or on Facebook.