Being fearfully, wonderfully and differently made

by Mike Samson

Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” – Matthew 2:1–2

I suppose being the father of a child with special needs is different than being the father of a typical child. I can’t say for sure. Our first-born son, Matthew, who has autism, was my only point of reference until our second son, Luke was born—and every child is unique, after all. Yet, as Matthew developed as an infant, my wife and I had an intuition that something was different.

Children with special needs develop differently than their peers. Developmental milestones like eye contact, joint attention and talking arrive largely on their own and on schedule in children who develop typically. Children with autism, like Matthew, have to strive long and hard, under the tutelage of those with specialized training, to develop these same skills. When we could no longer wait for potty training (I won’t go into details here!) I remember sitting in the bathroom for hours/days/weeks/months on end with Matthew for what I would call “potty training boot camp.” That was hard—and different.

Nevertheless, I’m okay with different. You know who else was different? The wise men. In Matthew’s Gospel, these very different men, from a very different land, practicing a very different religion, were the first ones whom God led to worship the Lord Jesus. Another one who is different: Jesus. The king of the Jews came not with power and might. He came with the cry of a helpless baby, and defying all expectations of what it means to be Israel’s Messiah throughout his life, death, resurrection, and ever since! Also different: Mary and Joseph. A pregnant, virgin wife far from home. The Bible’s thumbnail sketch of the overall experience of Jesus’ parents is that it was different from the norm. Joyful, challenging, heartbreaking, different—and blessed (Luke 1:48).

Is being the father of a child with special needs different? I suppose. But I’d call it blessed. Here’s why: for as long as I can remember, I have worshiped a God who is altogether different. God is self-described with these words: “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways” (Isaiah 55:8). In other words, God is different. Our son’s name, Matthew, means “gift from God.” That is what he is and has been from the moment I knew he was coming into the world. My different and loving God has blessed me with the gift of Matthew, whom I love with my whole heart. God has given me the wonderful and fearful privilege of being the father of this “fearfully and wonderfully” made child (Psalm 139:14).

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