Father's Life Turned Upside Down
Sometimes people raising a child with a disability experience the unexpected. Such was the case with John Knight of St. Paul, Minnesota, who, along with wife Dianne, began quite a journey on July 4, 1995.
"At his birth, we didn't know anything was wrong with Paul," said Knight. "He nestled right up to his mom. But when the nurse went to clean him up, I heard a quality in her voice that suggested there was more than a little problem. Our immediate reaction after his birth was one of extraordinary sadness difficult to describe. He was our first child."
Their son was born without eyes.
Within months, Knight, who had been a weekly churchgoer, ran from his faith, stopped attending church, and began viewing God as "cruel" and "capricious." The Knights were going downhill emotionally. Then a miracle of sorts occurred: a family they didn't know well from church chose to unconditionally "love on them," said Knight.
"(Karl and Geralyn) would invite us to their home and feed us really good food," he said. "Their children would play with my son as if he were a 'real' little boy. He looked different from other children, so people had been afraid to hold him. But their four children weren't afraid, and they would tickle him, sing songs to him, and love on him."
Continued John, "Karl refused to allow my anger and bitterness (toward God) change how he felt about me. He would applaud the good things I was doing with Paul and build me up. There wasn't anything I could say or do that appeared to frighten him."
Though the Knights lived 25 minutes away, Geralyn and Karl often would stop by to drop off food or other items of need or just to say "We're praying for you and love you" and then leave.
About a year later, and mostly due to having to come to terms with his son's disability and their friends' unconditional love, Knight began realizing his faith prior to Paul's birth had been more masquerade than real. His heart started softening. Today, Knight is director of donor partnerships at Desiring God ministries, and authors a well-read blog about disability from a spiritual perspective.
Besides being born without eyes, Paul would in part develop "significant" autism, a seizure disorder, and cognitive disabilities. At 17 today, he weighs only 75 pounds.
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Daniel J. Vance is a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor from Vernon Center, Minn. His weekly newspaper column Disabilities has been published in more than 260 newspapers.
Daniel J. Vance may be reached at www.danieljvance.com