• Dana L. Butler

When I Can't Protect My Son

Updated: Mar 17, 2020

August, 2017. My boy Isaac's still in public school, and things are painful on the special needs front. And I weep as Jesus whispers: I won't let you rescue Isaac from discovering his need for me. I'm too committed to him. These are the places he'll find me.

Aug. 18, 2017


Hey, my dear friends,

I can't tell you what a miracle it feels like to be sitting here today, fingers on keys. The house empty, other than myself and my pup, the silence bathing my soul like so much healing balm.

The summer has found me soaking up every tiny ray of life, every moment with my people, every river, every ice cream cone, every hiking trail and pool and yup, even every amusement park ride I can jump onto with my loves. I can't begin to describe how healing it's been, or how aware I am lately of the lightening-quick passage of weeks and days.

Rooms filled with closet contents have been my life's most recent backdrop, as space-by-space, I've tried to bring some measure of organization to the storage areas of our home. Feels good, opening closet doors now and finding this sorta-semi-minimalism. Like breathing room.

And school's started, y'all. Huh? We're somehow on day 9 and I'm still blinking, trying to figure out how this has happened already and how to catch up with my life before it speeds away, out of sight.

My handsome boy is in first grade (oh, please slow down), and my littlest bean has somehow sprouted into this breathtakingly beautiful, tall, longhaired, pre-k kiddo. So long, Toddlerville. We are in a whole new season up in here. I love it.

Maia's and my bond grows deeper by the day, it seems, and I'm so enjoying watching her learn obedience that flows more and more out of that connection, and less just out of desire to avoid a consequence. It is so sweet.

Isaac has done incredibly well in recent months, y'all. Like, so well. He and I are knit fast, deep, at the heart, and I adore being his mom with a depth and ferocity I can't describe. It undoes me.

School has thus far been both a good and a difficult transition for him. His anxiety has spiked somewhat, and though it's certainly not as extreme as it's been in the past, it still wrenches my heart to see him hurting. With school in session, he's had a small handful of anxiety-provoking encounters already, one of which was a pretty graphic threat of violence, made to Isaac by another student. We're dealing with this with school administration, who are great, but suffice it to say Stan and I saw red when we found out about it.

It makes me weep, y'all -- the way so many things seem to be extra challenging for Isaac to navigate, particularly socially. Ugh. It impacts my heart at a visceral level, taps into my own anxiety even as I maintain a brave exterior, calmly listening and coaching, asking questions and praying with my boy as he processes with me.

And the depth to which this tears me up inside, hits me in this groaning-deeper-than-words place, it's the depth to which I'm simultaneously pressed into constant, acute awareness of my need for my Lord.

Because lemme just tell you: I canNOT hold myself up through this. Every new hurt for Isaac is a blow to me. I know the other mamas in the house know what I'm talking about.

{And I haven't touched yet on the rest of the hard... that my sweet girl has her own set of unique, intense needs; that my husband, who I adore and who is absolutely wonderful, is as of this moment still completely not walking with Jesus, does not consider himself a Christian or anything at all close to it, and that I still find myself one facet or another of devastated over this on the daily.}

Sooooo yeah, (as I'd say if we were chatting on Voxer)... my knees feel on the verge of buckling most minutes.

B U T.


The picture in my mind is of him walking beside me, taking my right arm and drawing it around his shoulder, his left arm around my waist. We're lockstep. And not just lockstep, but he's bearing my own life's weight for me, because I cannot bear it on my own.

I'm completely dependent. And it's funny, because awareness of my weakness, of my need, is always the place where Jesus comes in and brings strength. Brings new life.

When I'm weak, then I'm strong. Heh. The Gospel's ridiculous, eh? So completely upside down.

I'm fairly familiar with this road, the way it feels to walk dependent, to live in this tight acquaintance with my glaring need, and the sweet, deep-down companionship with Christ that's forged as a result.

Something happened years ago, though, between me and Jesus, and I've realized this week that I'm beginning to see hints of it played out before my eyes.

Isaac was hospitalized for 6 days in early 2014, at not-quite-3-1/2. He had an infection behind his tonsils and required two surgeries, and it was that week in the hospital that began his journey with anxiety and PTSD.

That week broke me so much. I somehow (read: because of Jesus and only Jesus) held this strong, comforting exterior for my boy, but my insides bled as I watched them try to find veins for IV's, put my boy out for two surgeries, try to manage his pain.... I wrestled with the Lord during those days, realized at new levels that one of my biggest, scariest fears was that my child(ren) would experience significant medical trauma. I was traumatized at the very thought of it, let alone the experience of it.

That week, I'd've done anything to take his place.

Then it came -- the moment God whispered to my heart, I won't let you rescue Isaac from discovering his need for me. I'm too committed to him. These are the places he'll find me.

Then again, as we've walked through all the anxiety and special needs discovery these last years with our boy: Dana, you can't protect him from feeling the reality of his need for me.

It pulls and tears at this place inside of me that I can't wrap words around, you guys. It is deep though, and it is big, and it is gut-wrenching -- the place within a mom that groans with desire to take away her child's pain.

And over and over again, it's required of me: open your hands. Let go.

I find my day-to-day as of late punctuated by all these quiet, built-in reminders of how my own struggles with anxiety come bearing the gift of awareness of my need. How the scariest, most vulnerable scenarios and responsibilities, when bravely, shakily leaned into, lead me into more of Him.

But there's a new whisper from the Holy Spirit these last few mornings. It comes as we ride in the car together, my boy and I, on the way to drop him off at school. "Mom, can we listen to _______?" (Fill in the blank with whatever worship song has a beat he finds fun or lyrics that move him.)

We crank up the tunes, and he sings loud, or listens quiet, absorbing... he asks an occasional question about meanings of lyrics, but mostly, y'all? I watch him contemplate. I sense my boy's openness to the Lord. The bent of his heart toward an authentic awareness of God's presence with him throughout his day. His equipping, comforting, empowering nearness.

Oh yeah -- and that new whisper? The thing I'm watching as it begins to play out before me?

It's this:

Hey beloved? Watch while I capture your boy's heart.

Y'all, I really believe this stuff. I see it happening. God's trustworthy with my son's heart, and he's tangibly with my kid, even when things are harder for him to process than they would be for a more typical child. Even when Isaac's afraid, when he's not treated kindly, when he doesn't know what to do. God's drawing Isaac's heart toward his own, offering wisdom, giving him peace.

And maybe, really, I shouldn't say even when the painful stuff arises.

Maybe it's more like because.

And I'll tell ya -- as much as it guts me to see Isaac hurting or scared, every bit as deep and real as the pain of my mom-heart is my absolute awe, as I watch my Jesus tenderly pursue and win my son's love.

He is so kind, and so good, and so real.

Y'all. He's so real.

Annnnd I'm a mess of tears.

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