April 9, 2018 by Katy Epling
Sometimes we find ourselves living a life full of plot twists we never imagined. We set out on a path in our youth, certain that we know where it is headed—when the Playwright of our lives has something entirely different in mind. A broken relationship, a traumatic accident, an unexpected diagnosis.
Joey was three months old when we sat in a geneticist’s office and first heard the term “Down syndrome” used to describe our sweet baby. My brain couldn’t quite comprehend this new reality, and I spent months feeling like we were living the wrong life, like a mistake had been made and we had been dropped into the middle of someone else’s story. Depression and anger became my constant companions.
A few months later, I found myself sad, overwhelmed, and desperately behind on laundry, while my 6-month-old was in need of his third outfit of the day, as only infants can do. Six months old, and just starting to wear 0-3 month clothes. Always my beautiful, tiny baby.
When I took him to his room to change his clothes, only one clean shirt remained. It was brand new, with the tags still on it, a rarity for the third child (who also has older cousins, thus plenty of hand-me-downs). You might think I would have jumped at the chance to put something new on my baby, but there it sat, the last to be picked, this adorable little Carter’s onesie someone had so lovingly selected for us. Even then, when it remained the only option, I found myself hesitant to pick it up. I hadn’t realized until that moment, but I had truly been avoiding that shirt.
I held the shirt and read it: “I want to be a fireman when I grow up!” And I started to sob. The weight of those words. The reality of his disability. All of the pieces I had been trying to hold together came apart with one little sentence.
“It’s not fair!” I cried out loud. “This is not fair! He’s never going to be a fireman when he grows up. He can’t! It’s not fair, God!”
And then I heard a whisper, not audibly, but in my heart: “Of course he’s never going to be a fireman. That’s not what he was created to be.”
That is when it hit me: Joey was created to be something. He has a purpose. When Joey was first diagnosed, I was told over and over, “This didn’t take God by surprise.” And I believed it. I knew when my husband and I sat in the doctor’s office getting the rug pulled out from under us, God wasn’t up in heaven saying, “Wait, what now? How did I miss that?” But somehow in the back of my mind I still thought it had been an accident, like God had been knitting Joey together in my womb and gotten distracted by the Middle East crisis or a forest fire or the big game or something, and an extra chromosome had slipped past Him. Suddenly, as I sat there holding that shirt with the bright red firetruck across the front, I realized Joey’s disability was not Plan B. God had created my son precisely as He meant him to be.
Over the past six years, God has shown me just how true this is—not just for my sweet boy, but for all of us. Each one of us, created for a purpose, just as we are. There are no accidents, no throwaways. He wants to use every little piece of us for His glory.
That thing you don’t like about yourself? Let Him use it for good.
That thing you wish you hadn’t done? Let Him use it for good.
The thing that caused your world to turn upside down? Let Him use it for good.
Yes, it’s easy to tell ourselves that nothing takes God by surprise. How much more impactful when we realize He actually has a plan for whatever it is we didn’t see coming.
Joseph’s story is my favorite reminder of God’s sovereignty. When he is reunited with his brothers, they fear for their lives. After all, he has suffered years of slavery and imprisonment thanks to them. But he reassures them (eventually) with some of the wisest words I’ve ever heard: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20, emphasis added)
He didn’t say, “God managed to turn it into something good” or “God eventually found a way to use it for good.” God intended it for good. God has a plan for His glory and for our good. In everything.
Your life, your circumstances, your trials… they aren’t Plan B. God intends them for good.
I wish I could say everything changed for me after that day with the fireman onesie. Instead, it was more of a spark that caught slowly and grew over the course of months. For much of the first year of Joey’s life, I was angry and sad. I knew I would one day get used to our new reality, but I couldn’t imagine ever being happy about it. I am so thankful to tell you I was wrong.
God is using Joey—every single chromosome in his body—for His glory and our good. When we get to celebrate every little milestone, accomplishments moms of typical kids might miss completely. When we watch how hard he works to learn new things. When we see the way he lights up a room. When we have a chance to encourage other families struggling with a new diagnosis. When we get the privilege of educating others about people with disabilities. When we get to tell people that everybody is made in God’s image and is precious to Him.
Joey doesn’t need to be a fireman. He will be exactly who God created him to be. And it will be so very good.
And my friend, He created you just as you are for a purpose. Every bump in the road, He intends for good.
Go and live as you were created to be, trusting your gracious Playwright to use every scene for your good and His glory.
A version of this post originally appeared on katyepling.com.