Friday 4 September 2015

The Life You Never Expected

Just received this thoughtful and valuable review from a couple who also parent special needs children:

The buckets of sound counsel in this book have been drawn from deep waters: ‘I am come into deep waters where the floods overflow me’ (Psalm 69:2).  Perhaps it is only those floundering in the ‘deep waters that cross life’s pathway’ that will fully appreciate the spiritual and practical wisdom that saturates these pages.

In ‘The life you never expected’ Andrew and Rachel Wilson write candidly about the shock, disappointment and frustration of adapting to a life that not only wasn’t expected, but wasn’t wanted.  As the shock subsides and a ‘new ordinary’ replaces former dreams, so the authors explore the ‘Jobesque’ conundrum of faith in suffering.

The sub-title ‘Thriving while parenting special needs children’ is somewhat misleading and unfortunate.  At best it suggests that this is some kind of lifestyle manual with a spiritual twist; at worst some sort of prosperity gospel tackling life’s most complex questions in a flippant and superficial manner.  The introduction soon allayed these fears as the authors acknowledge that they are ‘feeling for God’s purposes in the dark’, ‘the need to find God and lean on him in the storm’, concluding that ‘for us, nothing short of a Saviour is enough’. Amen, to that!

The real value of this book is the way that the short, punchy chapters shift the focus away from the self-pity, self-indulgence and bitterness that are the natural domain of those feeling the isolation and pain of coping with life with disability. Our thoughts and coping strategies are recalibrated - lifted above the temporal drudgery to the uplifting, eternal realities revealed in God’s word. Perhaps, at times, the book is not telling us anything we don’t already know or have not already considered – but it does crystallise our disjointed musings with its clarity of style and biblical insight.

A few highlights:

  • Thankfulness in a world of entitlement: ‘if what you have is greater than what you deserve, then that’s where thankfulness comes from. If what you think you deserve is greater than what you think you have, then that’s where bitterness comes from.’ And, of course, we deserve nothing – apart from death by sin. ‘Grace, by revealing both how much I have and how little I deserve, helps bring me to a place of humility and thankfulness’.
  • Individualitis and the dung gate: this chapter demolishes the notion that ‘the world is mainly about me’. Malchijah is put forward as a role model – ‘he sits marooned in the midst of an incredibly long and dull list of names in Nehemiah 3....All we know is that he spent a short period of his life doing something very mundane, very smelly and very unnoticeable: he fixed a Dung Gate. Yet in his mediocre, ordinary way, Malchijah, along with all the others, helped establish the kingdom of God on earth....I was always inclined to think that God’s purposes came about through great leaders...travelling preachers, justice campaigners....Mostly, however, they don’t. They come about through millions of unnamed people doing unheard of things, in unnoticeable ways, to the glory of God. Repairing a wall. Teaching a classroom of seven-year olds. Sweeping a street. Running a business. Raising autistic children. Fixing a dung gate.’ 
  • The true battle: ‘the fake battles are a whirlwind of phone calls, government services, websites, more phone calls, forms, applications, more phone calls. And each of these can distract me from the true battle, which more often than not, is not fought that way. Frequently , the weapons of the true battle include silence, prayer, thought, clinging onto a Scripture passage with my fingernails, singing through gritted teeth...reaching for Jesus through the mist of confusion or unanswered prayer....I love my kids most by not loving them the most, but by first loving Him’.

As might be expected from authors of a charismatic persuasion there is a chapter on healing, but, on the whole, this topic is handled in a fairly orthodox manner. Our bodies constantly heal themselves as part of what might be termed common grace; God can and occasionally does still heal miraculously if he chooses; the healing through means such as modern medicine is a gracious gift from a loving God; the healing in the last day when our bodies are raised incorruptible, spiritual, glorious – without affliction, pain or disability – ‘Autism and Down’s syndrome and schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s are swallowed up in victory’.  

We recommend this wise and thought-provoking book to all who ‘sink in deep mire, where there is no standing’ who are ‘come into deep waters where the floods overflow’ (Psalm 69 v 14). It may be part of God’s sovereign purpose that the deep waters last a lifetime – but, as this books underlines, full provision has been made in the gospel for the life we didn’t expect. 

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