April 26, 2011 is a day that marks a major turning point in my life. It was the day I met my first child, which any parent can relate to by saying, “Wow. Game changer of a day.”
But it was also the day I discovered that my beautiful child also happened to be my other.
I have said many times that Grace was the first person I had ever met with Down syndrome, but it was only recently that I began to probe why that was. It was not a random statistic, it was a strategic one. I had successfully avoided knowing people with special needs up until that point. It wasn’t a conscious thing, at least I didn’t see it that way. But when you start to get really honest with yourself, which in truth is what this journey to all 50 states is all about, you begin to see that fear was driving so many of those “subconscious decisions”, even my act of avoidance of those with special needs.
My fear of being around people with disabilities drove my avoidance of them until I was staring into the face of “them” as my own precious newborn daughter. Suddenly I felt a powerful shift take place inside of me as fear and avoidance gave way to love and pursuit.
This is where the issue of racism comes in. What I was set free from that day back in April of 2011, was a fear I had always had of knowing a person with special needs. Love changed that in an instant and then increasingly over time. I was a racist, but not in the sense of skin tone, it was in the sense of chromosome disorder. I was afraid to even be in the presence of a person with special needs and therefore avoided that experience.
But God gave me Grace. Did you catch that? He gave me Grace.
Grace was, and continues today to be the tool He uses in my life to expose my fears, push out my boundaries, explore my subconscious acts of avoidance and own them. Grace is hard headed. She is fearless, filled to overflowing with our Father’s love as she hugs strangers and makes new friends at every stop on this journey. She makes me uncomfortable, which in turn, sets me free.
I am inspired by her power to overcome the symptoms of her diagnosis, whether it be a delay in speech or in her physical abilities. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am so thankful that God, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit to give us Grace in the exact package in which she came.
So today as we celebrate her 7th birthday, a number that means so much to me personally, I feel another powerful shift taking place inside of me as fear and avoidance of my other on a much grander scale is also giving way to love and pursuit.
I don’t know if we can rid this country of racism, but I know I can rid my own heart of it through the simple, pure power of loving and pursuing my other. The only thing Love requires requires is a face to face encounter.
Thank you for that, my beautiful Grace. Without you, we might have completely missed our destiny.
Happy birthday, my love!