Review: The Life You Never Expected by Andrew & Rachel Wilson (Book)

I think every parent would benefit from reading this book. I have been careful in the words I used in that sentence. I despair of being told I ‘should’ read this or that book, only to discover that I really didn’t need to read it, particularly as such bold commendations make me search for the book’s inevitable imperfections. However, I do think that this book is excellent.

The first sentence of this book tells us that it is “about spiritually surviving, and thriving, when something goes horribly wrong. In our case, that ‘something’ was discovering that both of our children had regressive autism.”

Andrew and Rachel go on to list the three groups of people that their book is written for; firstly, ‘parents who have just been thrown a curve ball- disability, for instance’; secondly, ‘family and friends of those who are raising children with special needs’; thirdly, ‘for a broader audience, including anyone who is suffering at the moment.’

I want to add a fourth group. This book is for any parent who is raising a child in a fallen, broken world. (By the way, if you’re a parent; that’s you). Or even; this book is for people in a fallen, broken world. Let me explain. In a brilliant chapter called, “The orange”, Andrew explains that having a child with special needs is like sitting with a group of friends as everyone is given a chocolate orange, while you are given an orange. You like oranges, but everyone else has a chocolate orange. You’re getting stickier than them. You’re tasting something different to them. Your orange might even be better for you. He continues:

“A nice meal has taken an unexpected turn, and you suddenly feel isolated, disappointed, frustrated, even alone.

Discovering your kids have special needs is like that.

Before we become parents, we have all sorts of ideas, expectations and dreams about what it will be like…. Mostly, we daydream about the good bits, and talk to our friends about the joys and challenges of what we are about to take on.

Then something happens.”

Andrew and Rachel write very movingly of what it means to be parents of two children with special needs, struggling to navigate life knowing that around every corner is a struggle that other parents don’t have. All the while knowing that there is one who planned what lies behind and knows exactly what lies ahead,

“But we are not the storyteller. We don’t have the power to resolve the twisted plot and bring triumph out of tragedy. Only God does. And his timing is often very different from ours.”

The Wilsons show us how their difficult situation has taught them so much about their loving Heavenly Father and their own hearts. It is these vital lessons that make their story so helpful for all parents because to some degree, all children have special needs. Growing up in a fallen, broken world means all children are fallen and a little broken. Every child is broken slightly differently so will benefit from unique parenting, growing godliness and great patience. I don’t want to underplay the difficulty of the Wilsons’ life or the special needs of their two children. Most families are not going through the struggles that they experience. Nevertheless, all parents would benefit from their insights on how to compare less, how to enjoy God more and how to love their children, as God made them, in his own wonderful image.

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