"Wrestling with an Angel" The Book

Wrestling with an Angel is also a book endorsed by Joni Eareckson Tada, Noel Piper, Russell Moore and others. It is available in print, audiobook, and a variety of ebook formats. Learn more about the book here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Great Grace In The Small Things of Life

“Flip a coin.”


“Rock, paper, scissors?”

I joke with my wife in a humorous attempt to decide whose turn it is to handle bath time for Jake.

“I’ll do it.” She replies, with slight resignation in her voice.

“No, I’ll do it.” I respond accordingly to her weary tone. Such a mundane decision for most parents is actually an act of chivalry in our house. One of the most powerful phrases in our love language to each other is often, “I’ll give him his bath tonight.”

Admittedly, she has told me, “I love you” many more times than I have told her.

As I walk up the stairs to Jake’s bedroom I roll up my sleeves and literally stretch my shoulders, back and neck to prepare for the match.

He’s watching TV—flipping through the channels in a rhythmic pattern. The calming effect that the television has on Jake is amazing. Even more amazing is the complete and instantaneous evaporation of composure that occurs when I turn the TV off and begin running the bath water.

I have never bathed a cat, but I know what it’s like to bath a cat—even a family of cats, because I have bathed my son for 17 years. Jake does not like to get naked, he despises getting clean and he fears water. Combine the three and the unholy trinity surfaces for an epic battle, scheduled nightly, usually around 7:30PM.

I approach his bedroom like a UFC fighter entering the ring. My mental focus intensifies as the physical strategies begin sorting themselves out in my mind:

“Gloves on, water drawn, towel down, clothes off…butt cleaned, fight on, in the water, scrub down…wash hair, rinse hair, out of water, towel dry…lotion, commotion, tears like the ocean…dressed again.” It sounds like a strange rap song inside my head. Actually rap music would be more inviting than the noises I am about to hear.

Maybe I’ll wear the iPod tonight…put on the noise cancellation headphones and turn up the music to drown out the wailing and gnashing of teeth. There is something inspiring about putting human drama to a soundtrack. I imagine my life played to a Derek Webb song…or perhaps a Bob Kauflin hymn.

But much to my surprise tonight will be different; gloriously different.

Truth is you never know when or where the wind of God’s grace is going to blow. Grace is like that—unexpected, undeserved and unpredictable. Tonight God would reveal some of that mysterious grace in the peaceful blessing of His presence…at bath time.

As I reach the top of the stairs the wind of God’s grace blows through our house. No less for me than it did for Moses as he stood before the Red Sea, Joshua at Jericho, or Gideon at Jezreel.

To my utter amazement, Jake voluntarily, with a smile, walks into the bathroom and begins to get undressed…on his own.

Miraculously, his pants are not soiled. There is no wiping or fighting. I run the bathwater and he steps in without being coaxed. He motions for me to put some bubble bath into the water and the tub quickly fills up with suds. He’s happy tonight.

Then Jake does something that I have never seen him do; he lies back in the water and relaxes. I mean really relaxes. The ticks and twitches all but stop as he lies motionless in the warm bath. He does not whine. The room is perfectly quiet.

Taking advantage of the rare moment, I get the opportunity to just sit there and look at my son. He looks different tonight, almost like he has no disabilities at all. His glasses are off, his eyes are clear and the continual torment of anxiety has left his face for the moment.

The refraction of the light on the water makes his legs look straight and strong. His complexion is perfect in the soft glow of the bathroom lamp and for the first time in a long time at bath time—his demons are cast out and replaced with a tranquil peace.

I stared at Jake for a long time imagining what he would look like or be like without his afflictions and handicaps. For a brief moment I was given a picture of my son without his disability. It was a wonderful gift from a gracious God.

He stayed in the bathtub till the water got cold and then he stood up on his own to be dried off. As I wrapped the towel around him and lifted his 130 pound body from the water, I embraced him tightly.

He shivered slightly from the cold transition of the water to the warmth of the towel as he allowed me to hold him longer than he usually does. I smelled the strawberry shampoo in his hair and the clean scent of Dove soap on his cheek.

“Thank you.” I whispered in his ear…“And thank You.” I whispered in His ear.

Grace in the small things of life, is never small grace.


  1. I have just recently found your blog & am really enjoying it. I have a 22 year old son who has Down Syndrome. Your bath story brought back a lot of good (& not so good) memories, as it took a long time for my son to learn to like a bath. And those rare times of grace were always a huge blessing also. The "love language" you & your wife share is the same in our house by the way.

  2. absolutely beautiful. you are a great communicator...gifted writer...and what an awesome dad :) thanks for sharing :) we have a 6 year old son with down syndrome who HATED taking baths in his foster home--she used water that was too hot--but the 1st night he came home with us (when he was 3) we made the water lukewarm, and i put on my swimsuit, and taught him how to have FUN in the tub and he's loved it ever since. so our baths have been happy times but God bless you for your service to your son and i am so in awe of the grace of your evening...has it happened since or was it just that one time?

  3. "I get the opportunity to just sit there and look at my son."

    That works on a million different levels. Thanks again Greg.

  4. Greg, you've done it again - softened my hard heart and wrung a tear from my dry eyes. Another precious insight into the grace of God.

  5. Beautiful posts... thank you! Found you from Noel Piper's tweets. And then I saw W VA....
    I've just looked at your other blog, and thought the scene looked very familiar ? I'm from Charleston ( Milton, Ona, Barboursville, S Charleston)

  6. Greg, Thank you so much - I can' explain how much this has touched me and pointed me Godward.


  7. Truly the grace of God is amazing. However and whenever it comes.

  8. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful picture of God's grace in your life. Very moving!!!

  9. And we complain about a line being to long..or a stoplite that doesn't turn fast enough. or its raining when it should be sunny, or I don't feel like loading the dishwasher and...and...and...God forgive us.

    May our Lord continue to grant this great mercy of a peaceful bathtime and a million more helps
    that will bless your family!

    P.S. He is a very handsome young man!!

  10. Thank you for being willing to show this part of your life.

  11. Thank you for this post and this site.

  12. Dude ... God bless you and your family. I don't know you, but I wish I did. Your son is lucky to have you ... and you, him. What he allows you to do, see, learn and appreciate is an incredible gift and perspective that most people in this world will never have. And, it appears that the Lord has gifted you in a way that allows you to share and touch alot of people with your life, stories and testimony. So, keep it up.

    Great, great story. Loved it. Can't wait to get home and hug my boys.

    God bless you and your family, Greg. Adding you to my blogroll as we speak.

  13. Thanks Greg. Your blog touched my heart and moved me to tears. About 3 years ago my wife retired as a CPS investagator. At that time we after much prayer and soul searching we decided to do special needs, medically fragile foster care. We took in Destiny.a 4 year old with anoxic brain damage and seziure disorder. Later that same year we took in CC, a 7 year old with renal failure. Ironically a year later we lost our 18 year old son in a tragic accident. We have since adopted both children. Some people think were crazy taking on such a task at "our age" but we just could not ignore what God was speaking to our hearts. Ironically a few years ago I would have imagined us moving into retirement at this time in our lives but it looks like God had something else in mind for us. I must say the joy of doing this labor of love far outweighs the work and sacrifice involved. Glad I found your blog. I will be following it.

  14. Dear Greg,

    What a wonderful grace you were given, along with eyes to see it for what it was.

    I'm the author of "A Different Dream for My Child," a devotional for parents of kids with special needs. It was released by Discovery House Publishers in September of 2009. I also have a website, www.DifferentDream.com, where parents can receive encouragement and information. Would you be interested in being interviewed for a blog series on it? If so, you can contact me there.

    Blessings to your family,

  15. ran into your blog through tim challies' blog.
    reading your entry has been one of great blessing and encouragement.

  16. I also found your blog through tim challies' blog. God has used your blog to reveal contentment and pride in my life. Humility seems to be the word that keeps ringing in my mind this morning. Thanks for being such a blessing.

  17. I also came via Tim Challies's blog. We have two grandsons with autism, not both in the same family. What a beautiful, touching post of God's amazing grace. Excellent writing! God bless!

  18. Thank you for this wonderful, insightful blog. How wonderful to see a father in such a nurturing role. You and your wife remind me so much of my husband and I as we raise our Aspie son together. (He also works as a residential aid for adults with developmental disabilities.) God bless you and your family, and may you continue to do such powerful work parenting and writing. You're a blessing.

  19. Thank you for sharing your story. My daughter is twenty five and suffers from borderline personality disorder. I remember each time that she stopped screaming mid-accusation, took a breath and we connected, if only for a couple of seconds. Like you said, gifts from God. It is that profound moment of peace that is so profound. You can't plan it, you just have to be present enough to recognize it.
    You are a fine writer and your son is a lucky man.
    xx kris

  20. WOW....another lovely post...thankyou...
    Our son Sam...loves to get in the bath...clothes, soiled nappy (he is 14 years old) water in the bath or not...We bath Sam every morning & sometimes it can be 5 times a day, getting him in isn't a problem but getting him clean is exhausting..messy & very very wet...& noisy even though he is non verbal...I often thank God we live on a farm & not in town with neighbours right next door for the noise level...lol..
    I'm so glad you were Blessed with this moment of Grace,
    God Bless you & yours always,

  21. thank you. i just subscribed to your blog. it was a tough day today with my 6 year old daughter who i believe struggles with fetal alcohol/drug effects. we adopted her at 6 months through cps. God has been so good to us in the midst of chaos. thanks for your thoughts.

  22. sitting at my computer...tears in my eyes...thank you for your blog...it makes me more amazed of God and his grace...thank you.

  23. all paths lead to one, I see that now. I understand you perfectly. I've also seen clouds from both sides. I'm very lucky. Thank you for helping me to discover this. God Bless. Wow!