Time to Update your Special Needs Software?

I’m not sure if this happens with your cell phone, but every so often I get notified that the latest “Update” is available.  Basically my iphone wants me to download a newer version of the iOS. It starts out subtle, but then my phone gets relentless in it’s request to be updated, like a 3-year-old who spies a full cookie jar on the kitchen counter. The issue I have with this update message is that my phone is working fine. I’m a little tech-oblivious (maybe more than a little) and so sometimes the thought of changing my iOS scares me a little.  What if it changes the way my favorite apps work, or my emails send, or my photos are organized?

Recently I ran into a brand-new special needs momma, and she reminded me that an iphone is a great illustration of our lives as special needs parents.  We all have a starting “software” that comes with the diagnosis. We have a certain way of processing the information, organizing our thoughts, communicating with others about our child, our lives and our needs.  We find a pattern that works. The new momma I met was so young and sweet. She tried to tell me her little one’s diagnosis, but she couldn’t quite remember the chromosomes that were affected, or if it was a deletion or an extra piece?   She reminded me of myself 18 years ago, with so many questions and hopes, and although she was being as casual as possible, she was desperately seeking someone to say “Oh yes, I know all about that, and here’s how it turns out in the end.”

I used my initial special needs “iOS” for a lot of years. The initial responses of fear, anxiety, defensiveness, disappointment and anger were my default.  When my pastor’s sermons suggested I “update” my thinking I was sure that didn’t apply to me. It took awhile for me to finally give way to a thought pattern “update” and I’ll tell you, just like the iphone update, it fixed a lot of the “bugs” in my heart and mind.

The Bible calls this the renewal of our minds.  And it tells us it is a daily practice. Just like my iphone, one update is not going to get me through this life.  As soon as I get comfortable with the new font they sent me with the last update, my phone is going to require another update that is probably going to change something else.  

My iphone research showed two schools of thought on the “update or don’t update” question.  There’s one school of thought that tells me not to bother. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  That goes really well with my personality and keeps me in my comfort zone. This is how I parent my son – it works, leave it alone.  This is how I relate to my spouse – it works, leave it alone. This is how I pray and trust God – it works well enough.

The second school of thought says run every update the company sends you.  This philosophy is based on hidden fixes that you aren’t aware that you need. Most often these fixes address security issues. This is what I propose to you as the most successful way to function as a special needs parent.  We can get comfortable with doing life a certain way. Even though throughout the Bible we are encouraged to keep growing, keep running, and constantly be improving, we don’t always apply that to our parenting or our attitude towards the special needs journey.

The new mom I encountered had a newbie “iOS” and that’s ok for her.  For now. But if you’ve been doing this for a while you should be at a different level.  And should continue to grow, gain strength and hit strides as you go along. We do that by daily renewing our mind.  Being open to hear a new thing, accept a new way and take on a new challenge.

Where I am today is definitely not where I was yesterday, but neither should it be where I am tomorrow.  Neither spiritually nor naturally. I have to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit when it comes to everything from how and what I pray for, to how and what I do to help my son.  Let us not grow weary in well-doing and thus grow complacent or stagnant in our walks with Christ and our walks with our children.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV

And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds. Ephesians 4:23 ESV

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2 NIV

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