I met Chris Morris when I took a tax class from him at the 2016 Realm Makers Conference. Although I don’t speak Math, I found his class to be surprisingly interesting. Entertaining even. What I didn’t know at that time was the life-altering thing we did have in common–a child with chronic illness. Chris also struggles with a chronic illness of his own, and has written a wonderful book to help those affected by it, and who may even ask, “Where do I find God in all of this?”
Read on as Chris gives us a picture of navigating through life with his daughter’s challenges.
Tap-tap-tap on the shoulder.
Here I was, trying to focus on God as we worshipped during small group, and my twelve-year-old son couldn’t even leave me alone here. I just wanted a single, solitary moment free of the kids. Sighing meaningfully, I opened my eyes and prepared to remind him that this was time to learn.
Then I saw the look in his eyes. A mixture of anger, embarrassment and helplessness. Instantly I knew what the problem was. Or rather, who the problem was. Familiar thoughts and worries flew into my mind.
I found myself paralyzed with fear, not wanting to deal with it again. A flush of tears stirred under my eyes. I felt lost. Before I could move past this and put my Father Hat on, my wife followed my son out of the room.
Twenty minutes later, she returned to the room. I caught her eye, and she mouthed to me that Cindy hit another child. Apparently our daughter didn’t get to play the Wii game she wanted to play, so she lost emotional control.
Every parent has been here, in this place. Your child is just not acting like you want them to. Like they should act. It seems they are not capable of behaving in public, so you remain on edge. Wondering when and where you will next have to “learn to manage” your child.
We have another level of challenge, one some of you may relate to. Our daughter is autistic and epileptic, so there are certain aspects of Cindy’s behavior that are beyond her ability (and ours) to “manage”.
So many myths about chronic illness can disrupt Cindy’s life and hold her hostage. Moments like her episode in small group remind my wife and I how vital it is to teach our daughter and her brothers the truth and empower them to live unhindered by these terrible lies.
We are all learning each day to push down the worries and focus on how to ensure our whole family knows the important things in life:
We are loved as we are by God.
We are accepted despite how we may act.
Cindy is not less-than because of her illnesses, and she is not defined by her chronic conditions.
She is more than her epilepsy, greater than her autism.
The last two statements above are very difficult to remember day-in and day-out. Surrounding us are people who do not understand. Who think my wife and I are just bad parents when Cindy is overwhelmed by too many stimuli, too much change. Worse yet, we regularly come across those who tell us we must lack faith since God has not healed our daughter yet.
And my daughter is not ignorant of these accusations. So we talk a lot about how her self-image should not and cannot be informed by others’ opinions.
But it’s hard, and we grow weary. So often we have felt as if we were entirely alone in our struggles. No friends to support us who really understood. Sure, they loved us, but they didn’t understand, couldn’t comprehend, what our daily life was like. This was our daily experience for a long time.
But no longer.
We have finally found a group of people who love our family, no strings attached, no judgment, just acceptance. We have stumbled into a group of people who place no judgment on our daughter, her seizures, her autism, or our parenting. Nothing brings peace to the troubled soul like an accepting community. A safe place.
Beyond community, practical resources are vital too. We spent many hours looking for books or seminars or focus groups to guide us on our journey, and to provide us a way to navigate through the minefield of myths.
We found nothing. So I created one. My book Perfectly Abnormal: Uncovering the Image of God in Chronic Illness walks through myths all sufferers of chronic illness will face. These lies can paralyze us, if we believe them. My book dissects eight of these myths, counteracts them with truth, and offers pointed questions to get us moving again. If you have a chronic illness, or love someone who has a chronic illness, please consider picking this book up. You can find Perfectly Abnormal on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks.
Chris Morris writes about redefining normal and building hope in the face of chronic illnesses and special needs. His writing is founded on the belief that circumstances don’t prevent thriving, but create opportunities for God to demonstrate his goodness. By day, he is the founder and managing partner of the creatively named accounting firm Chris Morris CPA, so Chris brings a unique analytic perspective to deeply emotional topics. He writes at his blog, and you can also find him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.