6:56 p.m. Tori
This series on mothers of disabled children allows us to introduce you to some of our heroes. These women lavish their disabled children with love and care. Yet, very often their children are unable to thank them—in words anyways. So we want to say “thank you” on their behalf.
Today I want you to meet Irene—another one of my heroes. Irene served as my husband’s secretary before she married Jeff, and this dear couple have been faithful members of our church for many years. As with Diane, there is so much I could say about Irene, but I’m going to let my good friend Charlotte—who has observed Irene up close for many years—introduce you to this godly woman.
“What Irene Taught Me”
I’ve known Irene Herbert for almost 20 years but we were not close friends at first. She married five or six years before I did and had her first baby about a year later. Her precious firstborn, Bethany, is fifteen now. She has never walked or talked. She is fed through a tube in her stomach. She has several seizures on most days and sometimes she drools. Irene and her husband Jeff love Bethany passionately. They have taught their five other children to love her like that. I didn’t understand that love at first, but when my child, Valerie, was born with Down Syndrome, Irene taught me how to love Bethany too.
Irene has a tenacious belief in God’s sovereignty and in His word. She has always considered her daughter to be a precious gift from God, fearfully and wonderfully made. She beams whenever Bethany focuses her eyes on Irene’s face, even for an instant. “See how she knows me,” she’ll say. Though I usually can’t see much difference in Bethany on any given day, I know Irene can. She knows her child. Irene taught me to see Valerie like that. A precious gift, made in the image of God. She taught me that even when others don’t understand Valerie, I can. Watching Irene taught me that God helps mothers like us to see things in our children even when no one else can.
Irene doesn’t compare Bethany with any other child. To Irene, Bethany is complete the way she is. Though she has many serious limitations, Irene doesn’t consider her to be less “human” or “worthy.” Irene accepts Bethany’s disabilities and rejoices as she sees God’s hand in every tiny step of progress. She sees her other children that way too. Irene is keenly aware that all growth comes from God and she is grateful for evidences of grace in any of her children. She has taught me that comparison is so unwise. She’s taught me to love Valerie as God has made her and to delight to watch her grow on the unique path he has given her, and to do that for all of my children.
Though Irene sometimes wonders why God made Bethany the way she is, I have never heard her charge God or demand an answer. She doesn’t complain about caring for Bethany, bathing, dressing and diapering her. Recently, Bethany’s health began what may be a slow decline. Last month she spent several weeks in the ICU. Irene spent many nights at the hospital serving and praying for her child. “I know one day I’ll have a conversation with her,” she told me. “One day she and I will be in heaven together and we’ll have so much to talk about.” Irene has taught me to have an eternal perspective. This is not all there is, it’s just all we see now.
—from the archives
As a pastor’s wife, I’ve often had a front row seat to observe people walk through trying circumstances. It invigorates my soul and builds my faith to see God’s grace at work in their lives.
Yet to be completely honest, I’ve also wrestled with questions, fears, and doubts as I’ve watched godly people experience severe trials such as a child being born with a disability. Why did God allow this to happen? Why hasn’t God healed their child? What is God’s plan and purpose in this suffering?
As in every arena of life, we must resolve our questions and fight our doubts and fears through Holy Scripture. To help us discover what God’s Word has to say regarding people with disabilities, we want to encourage you to read an article by Peter Avery: “Then shall the lame man leap like a deer: God and the disabled.”
Himself the father of a disabled daughter, Mr. Avery notes that, “Families never plan to have a disabled child. We live in a society that strives for and idolizes perfection, with people paying exorbitant amounts of money to have reconstructions done on their bodies.” But, he also observes that one in five of his native Australians have a disability.
So, he continues, “The question I want to ask is, ‘How do people with bodies that are less than perfect fit into God’s world?’ What is the big picture of how God views his creation? How does he view people with disabilities? How should we view them? How do people with disabilities fit into his plan?” In this honest, thorough, and hope-filled survey, Mr. Avery outlines what Scripture has to say in answer to these questions.
Even if you do not have a family member who has a disability, no doubt you know someone who does. This article will arm you with a biblical viewpoint and equip you to more effectively care for the disabled and their loved ones.
(Thanks to our friends at The Briefing for allowing us to make this article available to our readers free of charge.)
—from the archives
A few weeks ago, John Piper preached a powerful sermon on the suffering of children with disabilities: “Why Was This Child Born Blind?”:
The issue may be autism or Down syndrome or FASD or spina bifida or blindness or any number of rare and unpronounceable conditions—each has its own peculiar sorrows, its own peculiar way of turning decades into what you never dreamed or planned they would be. Married life isn’t what you thought it would be. Everything is irrevocably changed, and life will never be the same again. And you were not asked.
What would I do as a pastor if I had to face these things—these children, these parents—with a Bible that said nothing about it? What if all I could do is think up ideas on my own about suffering and disability? What if all I had was human opinions? I thank God that this is not our condition. The Bible is permeated with suffering and sorrow. This is one of the things that make it so believable. It is filled with things that God has said and done to shed light on these sufferings and sorrows.
You can listen to the entire sermon online or read the transcript.
The Desiring God blog followed this with sermon with several amazing testimonies of grace. First, John Piper’s three-part interview with John Knight, followed by the story of Greg and Kim Lucas and their son:
“When you say there is no difference between men and women, you hurt, more than anyone, women,” laments Kevin DeYoung in his recent message at the NEXT Conference, “Who Am I? Humanity in the Eyes of the World and the Christian.”
Kevin spent fifteen minutes of his hour-long talk contrasting God’s view of gender with the cultural view that there is no difference between men and women, and the accompanying dangers of such faulty thinking. “I hope you see how patently unbiblical this is” he said. “God made them, in the beginning, male and female. And we see already in Genesis, before The Fall, that there were distinct yet complementary roles for men and women.”
The entire message is packed full of biblical insight, clear cultural analysis, and humor. We highly recommend you listen and learn.
(And for all of you moms with young kids, don’t despair for want of an hour. Break it into seven ten-minute segments and you’ll be finished by the end of the week!)
Steve and I have been great friends with Gary and his wife Dawn for several years now. Recently, they watched their four young grandkids for a week which inspired Gary to compose the following top ten list:
1. The soap dispenser has more water in it than soap.
2. When you go into the pantry in the morning, the cereal boxes are all opened and there are crumbs on the floor.
3. Your house looks like the Caterpillar Room in Toy Story 3
4. You begin to believe that their mom really does allow them to watch Star Wars every day.
5. You’ve broken up more fights than the United Nations.
6. You don’t panic when your grandson announces that he just finished off the chocolate milk from the Red Robin glass that has been sitting in a hot car for over 24 hours.
7. Nobody can find the TV remote, the DVD remote, or half the Wii remotes.
8. You wonder why you ask who did it, because you know everone’s answer will obviously be, “Not me”.
9. They have more loop-holes in your instructions than a legal firm could find.
10. When someone asks them, “Who is looking forward to seeing Mommy and Daddy tomorrow?”, your hand is the first one in the air.
Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers and grandfathers—especially to CJ, Brian, Steve and Mike!