I had a teacher tell me many years ago kids would be more accepting of us because our child had obvious disabilities. His needs were on full display in the way he walked, talked, the way he did everything—or the way he did not do things. More accepting, you say? What she meant was other children would be more accepting of another child who was obviously challenged in these ways; they would want to help someone with an obvious disability rather than someone whose needs were unseen, invisible.
She was right.
Invisible disabilities have much different expectations, from everyone. With the seen disabilities, our struggles with the world were always proving the things our child really could do himself. With hidden disabilities, there are expectations from everyone: friends, family, and observers, as to why isn't he doing the things they think he should. Other children the same age can do it, why isn't yours? Why does my friend act this way? Why can't (fill in the blank)? If I'm honest with myself, sometimes I have these same questions.
Invisible disabilities are disabilities that are unseen to the world, unless you come close. Our kids appear 'normal,' 'typical,' or insert the new IEP catchword of the day. An invisible disability is defined as a disability that is not visible to the world. And it can be an uphill climb.
Unless we rely on the God who sees. Invisible disability is not invisible to our God.
Hagar called God El Roi, "the God who sees me" in Genesis 16:13. In both Matthew and Luke it tells us God knows us so well all of the hairs on our head are counted. I don't know anyone who knows me or my children that well. God saw Zaccheus up in that tree and told him to hot-foot it down because He was coming to his house right now. He saw all of Zaccheus; not because of his size, but his heart. He saw the bad and the good to come (Luke 19: 1-10). God saw Samuel (1 Samuel 16) not because of his stature, but because of his heart.
The Lord sees not as Man sees (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV).
God see us.
This is what I will tell myself every time I stand strong for my child against the 'why' of this world. When our children's struggles are unseen to the world, God sees us. When my worries are great because no one understands the true character of my child, God sees the heart. Invisible disability is not invisible to our God.
Stephanie McKeever and her husband are parents of all boys, one of whom is a young adult with both physical and intellectual disabilities. Stephanie writes, “I don't always know what I'm doing as I parent these guys. But what I do know is God is teaching me big things through our trials that I probably would have never learned without them. You can find more from me at www.alifenotnormal.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @stefmckeever.”