“God will never give you more than you can handle.”
I cannot tell you the number of times a well-meaning person has said those words to me. On my better days, I smile, say thank you, and go about my business. Other times, I grit my teeth, bite my tongue, and politely excuse myself before I say something that I’ll regret. Many nights I fall asleep with the cadence of this seemingly harmless phrase playing over-and-over in the noisy mess of my mind.
Why? Because those words break my heart, and they’re simply not true.
Before my son was born, I had no idea what it meant to be a special needs mom. Although I had worked in the special needs community, that didn’t prepare me for the intimacy of raising a child with significant developmental delays and medical needs. That being said, I’ve been blessed. I have a husband who is a pediatric nurse, amazing doctors, nurses and therapists, and an amazing group of friends who love me despite my many flaws.
But there are moments when I am terrified. When the weight of the responsibility I bear in the nurturing and caring for my son becomes too much for me to handle. No one sees those moments, not my husband, my friends, or my children. The world sees a lie – a woman, fearless, ready to fight for her child to the bitter end.
Why? Because I’m afraid.
Every response is well-intentioned, from the “it’s just a phase” to “but he looks so normal.” But, no matter how well-intentioned, these words highlight the disconnect between the typical experience of raising children and my experience. A disconnect that makes me feel even more alone.
It breaks my heart, this play-acting required to make everyone think I’ve got it together, that God hasn’t overwhelmed me, or given me more than I can handle. But this defense mechanism means most of my relationships are based on a lie. A lie that I hate. I crave realness. We all do. We all want the intimacy that comes with having someone sink down with you into the messy, muddy pit that is life. It’s a familiarity that we all yearn for – especially when we’re drowning in self-doubt.
So, if we need it so much, let’s do something about it. If we’re ever going to deepen our relationships, we’ve got to stop placating each other and get real. Community doesn’t mean pretty words and false smiles. It means sharing vulnerabilities and bridging the gap between our respective life experiences so that we can support one another and conquer every challenge life throws our way.
That being said, consider yourself warned. If you see me stumbling around with an hour of sleep, barely able to string a sentence together, hug me, bring me a coffee – black, no sugar – and you’ll be my favorite person in the entire world.