For as much as we've wrestled with the wheres, the hows, and whens to tell Luke about his heart defect, God made it very clear this past week it was time for the conversation to happen.
We have had such a good summer so far. A really good summer. Lots of swimming at the lake, playing with neighborhood friends, hanging out at daddy's camp, roasting marshmallows, VBS, and not a whole lot of cooking. If I were to give this summer a theme, I would have to call it the Summer of Swim. This is the first year Luke has shown motivation to learn to swim and be like some of his friends — life-jacket-less. And he is getting close! It's really clicking for him this summer and I love that he is loving the water.
All that to say, my friend Erica and I headed out to a local wading pool last week with our four plus two older boys (10 and 7) she was babysitting that day. This pool is only 1.5' deep but big enough the older kids could still play without getting bored.
One of the games the four boys came up with was a race game. Luke was hanging in there for a while, but I could tell he was getting frustrated that he could never win the race from one end of the pool to the other. My mama's heart was breaking but I also didn't want to jump in right away and "fix" the situation. My amazing, sensitive friend also noticed the dynamic and suggested the boys play "Marco Polo" instead, which they happily did.
As we were packing up later that afternoon, I asked Erica what she would do if she were in my shoes. For some reason, seeing Luke frustrated on this day was bothering me. Yes, I could tell him those boys were older and had been swimming longer, etc... but today that didn't feel like enough. I didn't want Luke confused as to why he could never win a race. I didn't want him to lose the desire to try. But was I really ready to sit him down and explain that he is different?
I left it alone that night, but God made it very clear the next day that it was time. Erica's son, Marcus, has had a wiggly tooth for a few weeks and on Thursday it finally fell out. She had sent me a picture and I showed it to Luke. "Do you notice anything different about your buddy?" I asked him. Luke has lots of friends who have lost teeth, and desperately wants to lose a tooth, but I was not prepared for his response. He burst into tears, sobbing that he was never going to lose a tooth and he was just a different boy and it was all because of his scar.
I pulled him into my arms and told him that what I had to tell him was very important and I needed him to hear me.
I don't remember word for word what I said, but I was praying so much that God would use my words to sink deep into Luke's heart. That he would hear TRUTH that Thursday afternoon.
I told him God made everyone unique. That no two people are the same.
Some people are short. Some are tall. Some have birth marks and some have scars.
I asked him if he thought God loved Marcus more because he lost his tooth first? He giggled.
I asked him what God cares about. Is it teeth, scars or the heart? He knew the answer.
I told him I understood what it feels like to want to fit in. Everybody wants to fit in and be like their friends, but what we have to remember is that God cares only about what's inside.
And then I told him that his heart is different than most of his friends'. It pumps differently, I told him, but that had nothing to do with who he was as a friend, a son, a student, or a big brother.
I'm not sure how much he'll take away from our conversation, but it did seem to me that a weight was lifted off his shoulders. He had obviously been thinking more about this than I realized and I'm so glad he was honest with me.
Later that night, Rog tucked Luke in and continued the conversation with the fact that God made Luke's heart so unique, out of a million people, his was the only heart like it. And that sure, he might not be able to swim as far or run as fast as other kids, but the fact that he was swimming and running at all was a true miracle. "Really, Dad? No one else has a heart like mine?" Dads are so good at making kids feel like superheroes.
I often feel so inadequate parenting a special child like Luke; maybe as a parent in general. All I can do is pray God takes my words and my intentions and shapes them to shape Luke's heart. I want him to feel like a superhero ... not because of how fast he is, but because he has Jesus in his heart.
And now we're off to swimming lessons. Because perseverance is so much more important than winning.