Trusting God’s Purpose and Plan

I was 31 years old when I found myself crying over a onesie.

You know, those cute little shirts for babies that button under their diaper to keep everything in place. They’re tiny and adorable and have cute little pictures and sayings that adults swoon over while the babies wearing them are blissfully unaware.

Who would have thought one of those would reduce a grown woman to tears?

I was six months into being a mom of three, an adjustment made even more challenging by a special needs diagnosis that had shocked us.

Joey was almost three months old before a geneticist told us that he had Down syndrome, and the news had knocked me off my feet. Months later, I was still mired in anger and depression, trying to grasp what this reality would look like for my sweet, tiny baby.

And on this particular day, I found myself with a kindergartener who would soon need picked up, a 3-year-old who did not want to nap, and a 6-month-old who was in need of both a diaper change and an outfit change. (How do precious little babies produce so much grossness?)

I was tired, overwhelmed, and desperately behind on laundry.

When I looked in his closet, only one clean shirt remained. It was brand new, with the tags still on it, a rarity for the third child. You might think I would have jumped at the chance to put something new on my baby, but there it sat, the last to be picked, this adorable little Carter’s onesie someone had so lovingly selected for us. Even then, when it remained the only option, I found myself hesitant to pick it up. I hadn’t realized until that moment, but I had truly been avoiding that shirt.

I held the shirt and read it: “I want to be a fireman when I grow up!” And then I started to sob. The weight of those words. The reality of his disability. All the pieces I had been trying to hold together came apart with one little sentence.

“It’s not fair!” I cried out loud. “This is not fair! He’s never going to be a fireman when he grows up. He can’t! It’s not fair, God!”

And then I heard a whisper, not audibly, but in my heart: “If he’s not going to be a fireman, then that’s not what he was created to be.”

That is when it hit me: Joey was created to be something. He has a purpose. When Joey was first diagnosed, I was told over and over, “This didn’t take God by surprise.” And I believed it. I knew when my husband and I sat in the doctor’s office getting the rug pulled out from under us, God wasn’t up in heaven saying, “Wait, what now? How did I miss that?”

But somehow in the back of my mind I still thought it had been an accident, like God had been knitting Joey together in my womb and gotten distracted by the Middle East crisis or a forest fire or the big game or something, and an extra chromosome had slipped past Him. Suddenly, as I sat there holding that shirt with the bright red firetruck across the front, I realized Joey’s disability was not Plan B.

God had created my son precisely as He meant him to be.

It’s been more than a decade since that day with the onesie, and God has continued to show me the truth of this, not just for Joey but for all of us. Each one of us, created for a purpose, just as we are. There are no accidents, no throwaways. He wants to use every little piece of us for His glory.

In the book of Genesis, we learn of another boy named Joseph. He is sold into slavery by his older brothers, then endures years of slavery followed by years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Eventually, though, he is released and becomes the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. (This is such an unworthy retelling of a fascinating story. Check it out in Genesis 37-50.)

When he is reunited with his brothers, they fear for their lives. Eventually, he reassures them with some of the wisest words I’ve ever heard: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20, emphasis added).

He didn’t say, “God managed to turn it into something good” or “God eventually found a way to use it for good.” God intended it for good. Does that mean God wanted Joseph to be thrown into a pit, to be a slave, to be wrongly accused? Well, no, but that’s a whole theological tangent for another day. But the bottom line is this:

God has a plan for His glory and for our good. In everything.

Joey is twelve now, and a few weeks ago his school hosted a spirit week—you know, when each day has a theme and parents are scrambling to find the right color shirt or learn how to do crazy hair. On Friday students were encouraged to dress for their future career. I expected Joey to wear his baseball uniform or maybe even his Batman t-shirt. Instead, he begged for a new shirt that would reflect his dream: Future Firefighter. And my friend, I never saw it coming. Joey doesn’t know the story of the onesie. This was just a little nudge from God to make me smile.

I don’t know what Joey’s future holds. I don’t know if he’ll be able to be a firefighter.

But I know that God has a purpose and a plan, and I am absolutely thrilled that I get to have a front-row seat for it.

Katy Epling is a writer and speaker in northeast Ohio. The author of Life on Purpose: 30 Days of Listening to the One Who Calls You, Katy loves to encourage others to honor God and live with purpose in their everyday, ordinary lives. Her writing has been featured on sites such as The Huffington Post, Today Parents, The Mighty, and Relevant Magazine.

Katy and her husband Jon have three beautiful children, who provide her with never-ending material, both dramatic and comedic. When she isn’t writing or speaking, she can be found packing lunches, folding laundry, and making dinner. (And on rare occasions, sipping a chai latte with a friend.) You can find her online at katyepling.com, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

To hear my conversation on the podcast with Katy, click on Depth Podcast Episode 83.

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