"He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)
Thursday we made the 10 hour round trip visit to Romney to see our son, Jake. This time we surprised him at his school, Hampshire High School. He jumped up and down with his arms in the air and then hugged each of us for the longest time. His teacher, Mrs Sczabo, was so excited to show us everything they had been working on and Jake was so proud to display EVERYTHING he had learned.
We are truly thankful to God for this amazing teacher, the people of Romney, and the Potomac Center where Jake lives. He is so happy and progressing so far beyond all of our expectations.
As we walked the hallways of the high school with Jake, we were overwhelmed by the display of love and kindness towards our son. He is a very popular kid at this very typical high school. Every teacher we met, to include the vice principal, took the time to personally thank us for sharing Jake. "He is such a joy to be around," they told us.
We left the school with our excited son, who was just a little disheartened that he didn't get to ride the big yellow school bus that day (one of his top 10 favorite things to do in life), and carried out our usual strict routine of dinner at McDonalds and shopping at Walmart.
At McDonands, Jake walked up to almost every table in the dining room and greeted the patrons, shaking hands and giving high fives. His non-verbal display of happiness was met with warm smiles and surprisingly appropriate responses.
"He's never met a stranger." I tell them as I follow my son around the tables, keeping a safety grip on the back of his shoulder.
The people of Romney are so kind and patient with our son. Very few people stare in this small town where the two largest buildings are The Potomac Center for Disabled Children and The Romney School for the Deaf and Blind. Most openly embrace Jake as one of their "different" but friendly fellow townspeople.
Jake's true personality shines in this town. There are no outbursts of anger or emotional meltdowns. There is little frustration and no anxiety. The time we now spend with our son is a wonderful experience that bonds our family closer together each time we visit.
On our drive back to Jake's residence we passed by several old houses for sale in the surrounding area of Romney. "Maybe we should just move up here," I said quietly to my wife. "Maybe we should," she replied. "I could work at Walmart or McDonanlds," I half-joked. "Jake would love that."
The drive back to the Potomac Center residential home is usually very quiet and somber. Conversation is replaced with deep thoughts of mixed emotions.
Our strongest desire is to be close to our son, to care for him and to be an intricate part of his life, but he lives 250 miles away and because he is non-verbal, he can't even "talk" to us on the phone. Our involvement in his life is a trip to McDonalds and Walmart every couple months. It breaks our heart to live like this.
However, we are most blessed that our totally dependent, disabled son lives in a small town full of traditional people where he is well educated, well cared for, thriving socially, and loved by all. We could not ask more for Jake than what he has been given over these past three years.
But there will come a time (in about two years) when we will be forced to find a new place for Jake, possibly in some other far off town.
When he turns 21, his eligibility for the Potomac Center and the Hampshire County school system expires. He will never ride the big yellow school bus again. Our hearts absolutely break when we think about how difficult this time will be.
There are no facilities in the immediate area where we now live that are suitable for Jake's care. Even if there was, a move that far would mean a drastic shift in his structured routine. A new place, new facility, with new people, new rules means chaos and anxiety for our son.
All of this separation, heartbreak and uncertainty continually reminds us of of one thing--our desperate and absolute dependence on the One who cares for our son better than we could ever care for him ourselves.
God has proven one thing to us over and over again throughout Jake's life: He loves our son more than we could ever love our son. And what encourages us most is that God's amazing and continual love for this vulnerable boy is not only seen in the difficult life of our son, it is ultimately seen in gospel--the sacrificial death of God's Son.
Romans 8:32 is our promise that God's love and care for Jake will never fail.
As wonderful as Jake's current setting is, our hope is not in the Potomac Center, the Hampshire County school system, or the city of Romney. Neither is our hope in the circumstances of the future.
Our hope is in the gospel of the Father who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us. With this continually on our minds and in our hearts, we ask the comforting, rhetorical question, "...how will He not also, with him, graciously give us all things?"