Enjoy this devotional from FlourishWriters student Carol Clark
I would never have thought my first day of kindergarten would have such a long-lasting, far-reaching effect on my life. Four decades have passed since that day, but I still find those memories playing over again in my mind every now and then.
I woke up overflowing with excitement. I put on my brand-new outfit and shoes, and my mom put a pretty, new bow in my hair. It was a day of new things, and I was ready to experience them all.
My anticipation grew as we approached the bus stop. I couldn’t wait to climb those stairs and sit by the window. I anticipated making silly faces at people as we drove by them. I could hardly wait.
But my joy and excitement turned into overwhelming embarrassment and rejection. The big kids, who I’d admired, laughed at me, called me names, and made fun of the way I looked. I felt small and insignificant, like an ant in a dark forest of towering trees.
Finally, the bus arrived. Rather than climbing the steps with anticipation, I struggled up them in disgrace. I walked down the aisle with my head hung low, staring at the dirty floor, afraid to make eye contact. I could hear the laughter and the echoing of my new, ugly name ringing in my head and burning its way into my heart.
I came to an empty seat and slid over to sit by the window, but rather than making silly faces, I sat silent, staring out, with tears flowing gently down my cheeks. I no longer wanted to go to school. I just wanted to go home where I was loved.
Those short moments waiting to start the adventure of a lifetime gave me a name that would follow me into adulthood and shape my identity.
I allowed this name to influence how I saw myself when I looked in the mirror. As I grew, I held back pieces of my heart from friends and family, so it was not broken again. I tried to get people to love me, but I often felt the sting of rejection.
I needed to change my name, but I did not know how.
I accepted Jesus as my Savior in my twenties but struggled with my identity for several years afterward. A part of me still felt I could never be loved unconditionally. I knew in my mind I did not have to earn God’s love, but I struggled to believe it in the depths of my heart.
Then, five years ago, my husband and I adopted four beautiful, special needs children. When we chose them, we knew they would have to overcome many obstacles, but I didn’t realize some of their struggles would mirror my own.
I have seen my children mocked, shunned, and called cruel names. My heart hurt when people shied away from them because they were different. My husband and I also experienced a quiet rejection from friends who were uncomfortable being around them.
I sometimes found my thoughts wandering back to that day at the bus stop. I was reminded of the pain in my heart and could hear the distant echo of that ugly name I had been given so long ago.
But as my relationship with Christ deepened, something began to change.
My heart began to hurt for those hurling ugly names onto my children; it would ache for those who didn’t understand the struggles they must endure. Even today, I long for people to see each child as I do, but I offer forgiveness when they don’t.
“Special Needs Parent” was not the name I had been searching for all these years, but this calling helped me find my true identity and know my real name. I found it in God’s Word:
. . . for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 NLT)
My name is “Chosen.”
I am now grateful for the pain I once felt. Without it, I would not be able to understand the heartbreak my children experience when others laugh or shun them. I would not be able to help them see they, too, have been chosen and their identity is found in Christ.
Satan would like my children to believe the lies saying they are less than, have no value, and are ugly and useless to the world. But I won’t allow these names to ring loudest in their hearts.
Have you been told these same lies? Has the enemy tried to change your name or steal your identity and purpose in life? Don’t listen!
God says we are his children, and we can “shine like stars in the world by holding firm to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15b-16a CSB).
We are told in scripture “we are God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Eph. 2:10 NLT).
The world may try to label you, but God calls you his own. He has a purpose and a plan for your life, and nothing can change it.
Perhaps the pain you have endured will open doors for you to share God’s love with someone walking the same road. Maybe you can come alongside them and show them they have the promise of a new life when they put their trust in Jesus.
Father, thank you for choosing me and showing me the beauty you placed within me. Teach me to use the lessons I have learned through my struggles to show others your goodness. May it all be for your glory. Amen.
Carol is mother to four adult biological children and four adopted special needs children. Her days are spent homeschooling, traveling to therapies and doctor appointments, and serving her husband of thirty-one years. Carol knew nothing about the world of special needs before adopting. Now, she desires to share Christ with those parents who feel alone and isolated in their journey.