How Are You Shaping Up?

I remember the day it hit me – the realization that my life would never be the same again. My voice quivered as I spoke my thoughts aloud. “This isn’t going to go away. It’s not a short-term illness. It’s not a long-term illness. This isn’t a temporary situation or a passing season of my life. This is forever. It isn’t going to go away.”

I February 2005, our third child, a little boy we name Drew, was born. The Bile tells us that each person is God’s wonderful work, that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and that His thoughts to us are precious (Ps. 139:14-17). As all children are, Drew is a special blessing from the Lord. Drew also has Trisomy 21, most commonly referred to as Down Syndrome.

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Psalm 139:14

After receiving the diagnosis that explained his visible developmental delays, it took time for my mind to adjust to this new reality and the permanence of it. I found myself in tears every Saturday for several weeks. I’m not sure why the grief overwhelmed me on the weekends. Perhaps Monday through Friday had a daily rhythm that was interrupted on Saturdays. I cried over what had been added to my life and sorrowed for the loss of what was not to be.

One particular Saturday, when Drew was 8 months old, I was driving alone in the car as I completed some shopping errands. As the tears streamed down my cheeks, I cried out to the Lord in anguish. “Lord, I feel like I’m being squeezed,” I prayed. I visualized in my mind the familiar phrase about trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I was the square peg, and my life with a child with special needs was the round hole. I felt like my square corners were being jammed against a circular opening, but I couldn’t get in. I couldn’t get through. I was stuck. The emotional pain was almost unbearable. In that moment, the Lord brought a very specific thought to mind: “If you are feeling squeezed, perhaps you should change your shape.”

We know from Scripture that by the Spirit of the Lord, we are to become more and more like our Savior, Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). Romans 8:29 tells us that God predestinated us “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” We are to have the same character as Jesus Christ.

God may allow a challenging situation into our lives to be used as His tool to reshape our hearts and minds to reflect Christ. We may experience physical challenges in our own bodies. We may be called upon to provide emotional support to another. We may be treated unjustly or sinned against. We may experience the loss of a loved one, a friendship, a hopeful expectation, or a job. Whatever our trial, the reshaping process can be painful, tiring, lonely, and long.

During my reshaping process over the last three years, I have experienced daily challenges that require me to suffer long – to exhibit patience and endurance. My husband comments that having a child with Down Syndrome is like watching a child develop in slow motion. The developmental milestones come – it just takes longer for them to get here. Drew first smiled when his little face was ready to smile. There was no rushing it, and his smile was just as beautiful at four months as it would have been had it arrived at six weeks. He sat, crawled, stood, and walked when his body was ready, even though it took a long time. We had to adjust our thinking to fit Drew’s abilities. We continue to practice patience as we wait for him to gain understanding – even when it means teaching him for the one hundredth time to “leave the clothes in the drawer,” or “stack the blocks – do not throw them like a ball.” One delightful blessing of slow-motion development is that we don’t miss any of it. It doesn’t just whiz by. We get to enjoy and savor each accomplishment as the grand success and achievement that it is.

When I resist God’s call on my life to the challenges He allows, I am back to jamming my square shoulders against the round hole. My resistance hinders the development of the fruit of patience that God’s Spirit desires to produce in me. Fruit-bearing requires me to set aside my agenda, my desires, or my timeline and say, “Change me, Lord, to fit into Your plans for me.” The Scripture promises that trials will produce in me patience, perseverance, endurance, character, and hope (Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:3-4). Hope in God never disappoints.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” Psalm 37:23

“But God has a purpose in all of His delays…Next to this verse, in the margin of his Bible, George Mueller made this note: ‘And the stops too.'”¹ If you find yourself being impatient and trying to push through, stop, wait, and ask the Lord what shape you ought to be.

¹L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert, ed. James Reimann, rev .ed.(Zondervan, 1997), 313.


 

Written by Jonie Turner French. This article was published in the Spring 2008 edition of The Beautiful Spirit magazine.
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