My friend Jan and I lead a Sunday morning church service every other week at a local assisted living facility. We fill in for each other when one of us can’t make it, so it wasn’t a big deal when she had another obligation this past week. What was a big deal was that my husband Jay was also teaching Sunday School at church, and Zack’s usual caregiver was sick that day. My only option was to take Zack with me.
I hoped that with an iPad and earbuds, Zack would sit relatively quietly in the corner of the room while the residents and I worshiped and had a Bible study. But I also knew it probably wouldn’t work out that way. So when we arrived and nobody was there—even my precious Vern and Vera, a married couple who are always waiting for me—I felt a bit of relief.
I also felt concerned that my friends hadn’t shown up. Zack stayed put in a chair with his iPad while I went looking for them. No one answered when I knocked on their door, so I returned to the meeting room, feeling half deflated and half relieved. At first I thought Zack and I would just go home, but then I decided to wait just a few more minutes in case anyone was really late.
After a few minutes, Ann came in, pushing her walker. She’d been to service a few times but I didn’t know her well. She immediately noticed Zack and mentioned that he reminded her of her grandson.
We sang a couple of songs and I started sharing with Ann from the Bible, but instead of listening to my words, she seemed distracted with Zack. Finally, she asked me, “Why do you think God gave someone like Zack to you?”
I paused, and then said, “Zack is a living sermon in my life of how much God loves me.”
As her eyes welled up with tears, I continued, “I don’t care about what Zack can or can’t do. All I care about is having a relationship with him. I just want to connect with my son. And we are very connected. That’s the same way God feels about us. We can’t do anything for Him, but that’s okay with Him. He made us to have a relationship with Him. He loves us, and that’s all He cares about.”
Ann nodded. Then she said, “Let’s go to the library. I donated some books there, and I want to give them to Zack.”
While Ann picked out several children’s books for Zack, I looked for the book I’ve written about him, which I had donated a month before. I mentioned that I couldn’t find it, and she said maybe someone had taken it to read. When she asked me the title and I said Fragile X, Fragile Hope she laughed and said, “I have it in my room! I took it to read so I could understand what my daughter’s going through.”
What are the odds that Ann’s 13-year-old grandson had just been diagnosed with the same syndrome Zack has? And what are the odds that her daughter and grandson live less than a mile from my family? I’d say they are God-sized odds. What began as a less than ideal morning ended as a great encouragement, made possible by seeming difficulties that turned into a revelation of grace.