He was shuffling around in the parking lot as I pulled into the office early one morning. Before I had even got out of the car, he had wandered over and was standing by my car, obviously waiting for me to get out.
I nodded to him and said hello as I headed to our office’s front door. He followed me curiously and noticed our name on the door. He asked me, “What is Rising Above Ministries?”
I invited him to join me inside where he explained he was waiting for the office next door to open for business. I briefly described who we are and what we do for the special needs community.
I was in a hurry to get started on my tasks for the day, but he was a talkative older man, and so I listened politely.
Over the next five or ten minutes as we talked, he mentioned that he had an adult son with special needs himself.
Only he didn’t use the words “special needs.”
He called his own son retarded. In fact, he used the word retarded 5-6 times in the brief few moments he was in my office.
Over and over, the word rolled off his tongue.
My blood pressure went up twenty points every time the word came out of his mouth.
He even shared with me a story where his own son was struggling to do a task, and he told his son to give up, saying, “You can’t do it because you’re retarded.”
Just as I was beginning to consider a Jedi mind trick to try to blow up him up right in front of me, the Holy Spirit calmed me down. He was an older man, and in his generation, the word was commonly used and socially acceptable those many years ago.
For those reasons, I decided this time I would give grace.
But all week long now, I can’t stop thinking about that poor son. Having you own dad tell you to give up because you are retarded. Telling you that you cannot do something because “you’re retarded.”
Your words that you speak over your child or about your child have the power of life and death. I am constantly, with every opportunity I have, speaking positive words of affirmation and life over my son. I am always telling him how proud I am to be his dad and how honored I am that God chose him to be my son.
And we have a rule to never speak negatively about him to others either. I constantly tell him how much I love him the way he is and I wouldn’t wish for any other boy but him.
There’s an interesting passage in scripture. In the Book of Matthew chapter 21, verses 18-20 Jesus has a weird encounter with a fig tree.
“Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.”
And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” Jesus spoke death over the fig tree and it never bore fruit again. The tree simply withered and died. His words had the power of life and death.
So do your words.
Your child with special needs is your fig tree. Every time you pass by or encounter your child, you need to speak words of life, love, and affirmation over your child or children.
Your spouse is a fig tree. Every time you pass by your spouse is an opportunity to speak life into your spouse as well.
Your words will be the difference between life and death.
How are you doing in nourishing the trees in your life?
By Jeff Davidson
Husband to Becky, Father of one
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Rising Above Ministries
Author of No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches: a father, a son with special needs, and their journey with God.
Previously titled The Fig Tree.