I will give thanks to You, because am awesomely and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14
In the poem “Welcome to Holland,” Emily Perl Kingsley compares her experience as a mother of a child with disabilities to someone planning a trip to Italy but ending up in Holland.
Future parents dream of going to Italy and touring the Coliseum, which translates to having a healthy child with typical challenges such as skinned knees, struggles with algebra, and a broken heart over lost adolescent love.
Prospective parents don’t dream of going to Holland, which has tulips and Rembrandt, but represents having a child with challenges parents didn’t expect.
Kristen Groseclose takes issue with Kingsley’s portrayal of “Holland” as an initial disappointment that turns into gratitude for flowers and art. She states the poem is rather “a generic spin on a painful situation.”
In From Ignorance to Bliss, Annie Yorty shows us her journey from the diagnosis of Down syndrome in her first born daughter Alyssa, through the pain of realization and struggle, to the destination of wisdom and gratitude for what is.
Annie grew up with an inherited belief that our value is in what we can achieve, especially intellectually. Having a challenged child meant rethinking human value, understanding our sacredness without regard for capability.
“If I believed her [Alyssa’s] life had value, and I instinctively did, my understanding of what gave a person significance was flawed. If she had worth superseding what she could do or give, from where did her significance originate?”
Aside from the existential question about life’s value came the overwhelming nature of the practical issues: doctors, specialists, therapists, homework from therapy, a support group dealing with rights and responsibilities, floods of information and predictions (mostly dire) about what to expect. And medical billing.
The last one especially resonates for me. Last year at this time, my husband and I lived in the aftermath of his third heart attack. Billing issues abounded. Invoices from multiple doctors and two hospitals, and documents required by a medical sharing entity had me leaping through hoops from the moment the first bill arrived, consuming uncountable and irretrievable hours. The final resolution took 363 days.
For the new mother of a handicapped newborn, such battles must have seemed as though they would stretch endlessly. It’s a special kind of purgatory that seems it will never end.
We measure children’s advancement through life by achievement and growth. We marvel when they take their first steps, ride a bicycle without training wheels, and learn to read. We mark a wall or door post with their height and a date.
Measuring spiritual growth is a bigger challenge. Milestones include decisions to resist temptation, to exercise grace instead of malice, to sacrifice desire for good–even someone else’s, and moments of rejoicing.
As children grow physically, we grow spiritually day by day through prayer, fellowship, nourishment of the Word, and wrestling with difficult circumstances. There is no physical mark that shows our progress.
Annie Yorty has brought us her wrestling. Through this book, we watch a soul developing. In reading, we grow too.