I’ll be forty next week. No, I’m not pandering after birthday wishes, but I can easily remember when I was a young man thinking that forty was old. Now that forty looms ever nearer, I don’t think that quite so much. I’m in a much different place than I anticipated when I was nineteen and certainly never saw “parent of a girl with spina bifida” on my resume. Needless to say, life moves quickly, and the last three years have moved at an eye-blurring rate. I’ll readily admit that I am tired and that my bones are weary and the muscles ache. My spirit at times becomes dry and my soul aches for a slower pace. As Ann Voskamp says, “God’s Word never says hurry up. God’s words only whisper wake up.”

Miriam changed life significantly for us, in many ways for the better, yet with her many needs, my dark roast coffee in the wee hours has become not so much a pleasure but a necessity. Add in homeschooling, a busy pastorate, a yard that never seems to get mowed, add five more children and you get the picture of a busyness that is continually hungry. Caffeine is my constant companion. “Stop!” my joints begin to scream and my soul aches with the absurdity of it all, the nagging void of one-foot-in-front-of-the-other.

But isn’t that what life is all about? Isn’t it about the madness, the rush, the chaos, the managing under the stress, the jumping the hurdles, the taking what life throws at you and learning to be still and know that He is?

At this point I hope you’re asking what Hagar has to do with all of this. Hagar was Abram’s and Sarai’s Egyptian handmaiden to whom we are introduced in Genesis 16. Forced into a situation, made to do something culturally acceptable yet morally reprehensible, Hagar is made to lie with Abram. The promise of a nation loomed impossibly high above Abram’s head; Sarai was barren, and eighty-six years old pushed that promise that much farther out of reach.

So, Abram and Sarai resorted to a custom that would ensure the promised son; society allowed the taking of a servant-girl as a concubine and children sired through her could be adopted as their own, thus becoming part of their bloodline and a significant heir. Hagar becomes pregnant and Abram offers that child to God as the Promised One. God responds in the negative, that the promise will not be granted on their terms, and sadly, Hagar is summarily dismissed by the family, belly full of a shattered promise.

Yet God meets Hagar as she fled a situation in which you and I would have emulated her behavior. If you’re still reading you’re likely saying, “This has nothing to do with my special needs child.” Well, it doesn’t, except this spiritual principle we find in Genesis 16:9. God tells Hagar, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her authority.” So in other words:

Hagar, go back, in spite of this impossible situation, and continue to do what you were doing. This is a brand new set of circumstances, even an impossible set, yet I will be with you as you stand up underneath this weighty load. In a word, Hagar, persevere.

And that is my word for you, dear readers. Persevere. Stay strong. Do what you’ve always been doing. Attend to that child’s needs, cath her four times daily, sit her down for her afternoon constitutional, put her braces on, make sure the walker is in the van, take her to therapy an hour and a half away, see another therapist at the house, go to numerous and frequent doctor appointments, get up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, and all the other stuff, keep on keeping on.

Unashamedly one of my family’s favorite films is Finding Nemo and Dory is one of our favorite characters, the forgetful, naïve, yet good-hearted regal tang. When Marlin, Nemo’s father, begins to despair of the search for his son, Dory encourages him. “When life gets you down, do you want to know what you’ve got to do? Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” Keep swimming, friends. That little one is worth it, even underneath an impossible set of circumstances.


Tony Sisk is the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Shelby, North Carolina and hubby to Camilla. They have six children (yes, six) and drive a Ford E-350 fifteen passenger van. Miriam, their youngest, is their spina bifida cutie.