These lines were suggested after seeing a film produced and presented by the Elim Christian School here in the Greater Chicago area.
Elim teaches that exceptional child and our appreciation for the work done and better understanding of it was obtained by the viewing of the film in full color and sound.
We have not been asked by Elim to make propaganda, and it is not our intention with these lines to strive to that end. But we are sure that the film; if you are able to see it—and we do not know how wide and how far from this area Elim desires to show it—will speak for itself and needs no written emphasis.
Elim does not teach the exceptionally talented child although hidden talents do come to light through their instruction. Elim is not a school for those who excel in their capacities for study and mental abilities. But talents of patience, exceptional abilities to strive against almost unsurmountable obstacles are to- be seen every day in this exceptional school.
Elim is a school for the blind, the deaf, the physically handicapped; and these are exceptional children. They are the exception to the rule that God usually gives us children sound in mind and sound in body. And Elim is a Christian School which trains the handicapped of the covenant sphere in the light of the truth of God’s Word. An exceptional school for exceptional children.
In Jesus’ day there were such children in Israel, the covenant sphere. Mothers and fathers came pleading to Jesus for their children. The blind and deaf were brought to him that had been blind and deaf from birth. Even more tragic and pathetic were those cases of children possessed of an evil spirit. How the hearts of such covenant parents must have bled! What grief they must have borne and carried with them all day long and year after year! These afflictions were found in the Church, in the covenant sphere, in Israel, the people of God. Even as today these maladies still appear in such circles.
In that day they did not have the methods and tools which we have for training the handicapped. What electronic marvels are used today to get the deaf to hear a bit at least, the blind to write and feel the words, the cripple to help himself along with chairs adapted for his particular use! When we look at such sights as those upon this particular film, does it really pass through our thoughts, “There but for the grace of God go I?” We say that when we see a desperate criminal in all his evil on the way to the electric chair. We say that of the heretic which had a covenant training and then turns his heel upon the truth to fight it with all his power. But do we say it and see it when we are born “according to the rule” with eyes that see and ears that hear and muscles that respond to use bones that are straight and strong? We so often assume the position that we have all these things coming to us. Then we are exceptional children in the sense that we are exceptionally foolish and carnal.
And let us understand clearly that from a spiritual point of view we are all, as sons of Adam, exceptional children, who are not as Adam was possessing true knowledge, righteousness and holiness but an exception to that rule. Let us remember that all physical deformities are here because of our spiritual deformity. Let us then pity those with physical deformities but also confess our own complete spiritual departure from the norm according to which we were created. Let us then acknowledge that not one of us deserves to see God’s glorious creation, to hear His music, to walk upon His earth, to handle His creatures and to receive His Word from the printed page or from the lips of others.
The exceptional child is not the victim of his own sins, nor of his parents. We are reminded of the incident recorded of the blind young man whom Jesus healed. The unbelieving Jews asked Jesus whether he had been born blind because of his own sins or because of those of his parents. What could they have meant that it was his own sin, when he was born blind? But Jesus said that neither was the case, “but that the works of God should be manifested in him.” John 9:2. Dare we say anything else than that this is still true today? Dare we deny that the works of God are manifest in the exceptional child? The curse in all its forms is His work. Eyen if we wish to take the erroneous position that Adam died as a consequence of his sin, that he poisoned himself by the forbidden fruit, the fact still remains that God made that fruit poisonous and that He is in that poison in His providence to kill. But that is not the case. Death is the wages of sin. Death is the punishment of sin. And that means that the curse in all its forms, death with all that which leads up to it and is connected with it, all imperfections in the mind or in the flesh, all disease and deformity is God’s work as punishment upon sin. No, we say again, not in the sense that the particular form which the individual bears is due to a personal sin which he committed. How can the child born blind be punished thereby for what he did? Nor is it true that the covenant parents, who pray for their unconceived children and for their developing children that must yet be born, receive these exceptional children because they do not deserve normal children while those who do receive children sound in mind and body do deserve them. None of us deserve what are called normal children. And God does not punish the children for the sins of the parents. He is a just God. But when the curse is to be seen more plainly in the exceptional children of believers in the form of blindness, deafness, deformity, mental disorders and the like, it is God’s work that is manifest in them. And God’s works are going to be manifested in them also in the day of Christ, Who came to heal the sick, to give sight to the blind, to cause the deaf to hear and to raise up the dead.
The blind young man mentioned in John 9 was born that way in order that Jesus might perform His miracle and manifest the work of salvation which God works in His grace. These occasions for Jesus’ miracles were determined from before the foundation of the world that God’s glory might shine forth. The lot and handicap of the exceptional child has also been predetermined by an all-wise and sovereign God. And covenant parents to whom God has given these exceptional children may also find comfort in the truth that God will manifest His works in them. They shall not always be blind and deaf and exceptional. In the new Jerusalem there will be no exceptional child in that sense. All shall be exceptional in that they shall be glorified while the greater percentage of the human race is in a deeper suffering of the curse in the torment in hell. God has made the distinction in Christ. He has been pleased to elevate some above others, to glorify them and make them His peculiar treasure. Among these are the exceptional children of covenant parents. And these in the glory of that new Jerusalem with eyes that see what eye here below hath not seen, and with ears that hear what here below the fleshly ear has never heard, shall have a thrill which we cannot know. We cannot know that tremendous contrast! But the exceptional child has been brought into this world with his affliction in order that he may know his salvation in a way that we cannot know it. Let us not go around trying to determine God’s favor upon men by what we see them possess and bear in this life. We had better not fall into the error of Job’s three “friends.” And let us not try either to determine the measure of glory one shall receive in the new Jerusalem by the afflictions he receives in this life, and then judge that because God has given an exceptional body and mind in this life, He does not intend to do much for that individual in the glory of His kingdom.
The elect, regenerated exceptional child learns patience and runs more sincerely to his God in his troubles than we often do. As the psalmist says, in our prosperity we boast that we shall never be moved. And again, it may be quoted from the Psalms that affliction has been for our profit that we might hold to God’s Word. We, who are so free to run here and there, to enjoy the world, to seek it with all that which it contains, who see it, hear it, smell it, taste it and touch it at will, miss something that the exceptional child enjoys. You may pity him, but all too often he is the one who must pity us. If we pity him, then let us provide for his training and education and bring him also to the throne of grace. Let us not neglect his spiritual, covenant training and assume that because God has afflicted him He has not chosen him as His child. That is not in His fear.
Indeed, it takes the fear of the Lord to receive such a child and to train him to the utmost of your power in the truth of God’s Word. It takes an exceptional parent to receive and care for an exceptional child, and do not forget that. It takes faith in God to refrain from rebellion against this way and gift. It takes faith in God’s promises and the, patience which only faith knows to struggle with that child, to work with him, to encourage his faint and almost unrecognizable steps of progress. It takes an exceptional amount of God’s grace to say with the psalmist in such a circumstance, “Thou, Lord, hast dealt well with thy servant according unto Thy Word.” Psalm 119:65. And the exceptional parent of an exceptional child may also, in His fear, look forward to an exceptional reward for his patience and faithfulness. He, too, is being prepared in this life for an exceptional reward in heaven which the parent of what we call a normal child cannot enjoy.
But there is another side of the picture.
Are you sure that you do not have an exceptional child even though he is sound in mind and in body? Let us put it bluntly, Do you have a wayward child?, a worldly minded and world-seeking child? Does his sound mind and sound body lead him to seek the world? What is more important, Does he seem to you as an exceptional child? All too quickly we speak of the fleshly actions of our teenagers as the normal conduct of a young man or young woman of that age. In a sense, as we simply look round about us in this sin-cursed world, it is true that sin is the normal thing. But if we remember that we were created in the image of God in true knowledge, righteousness and holiness, then we will see so much spiritual blindness, spiritual deafness, spiritual lameness and that there is so much exception to that rule of life in paradise. The parent with the physically exceptional child may have his problems and heaviness of heart and pain of soul. He is, however, to be envied over the parent whose child is spiritually the exceptional child, who does not show interest in the Word of God, in prayer, in church worship, in instruction in the Word of God and lives in the world and for the world. Physical blindness is temporary and therefore not so serious. It is not fatal. Physical deafness will be cured. The physically lame shall walk on a street of gold where God will wipe away all tears from our eyes and there shall be no remembrance of the former physical disabilities and sufferings. But spiritual blindness and deafness, refusal to hear the Word of God, turning away from the things of God’s kingdom is a fatal disease. Unless God makes the exception by sending His grace into the heart, that life ends in everlasting death.
Those who have the fear of God in their hearts, those born with the life which is from above, are no longer blind. They can see the kingdom of heaven, and they enter into that kingdom. Physical disabilities do not prevent entering into the spiritual kingdom.
Deafness presents a problem, but not nearly what it did in times past. To get the Word of God into the soul of the deaf, the totally deaf, is for us a difficult if not impossible matter. Few there are today who cannot be made to hear to a degree. And such an exceptional child should be given the opportunity to hear the Word as well as the normal child. But even in ages gone by, when we lacked these electronic devices of today, God’s arm was not shortened. It pleases Him to take to Himself in infancy His elect children before they were able to hear His Word physically. By the preaching of the gospel He calls and brings to consciousness of His love and grace. But He is able to save the exceptional child in an exceptional way.
His miracles were all exceptions to the rule. His own coming in our flesh was The Exception to the rule. Salvation is the exceptional work of God. The fear of His name is the exception to the rule in this world of unbelief and sin and is His exceptional work in His own. The wages of sin is death. That He gives us life is the exception which He has wrought in Christ. And we have all fallen into sin in Adam in order that the exceptional works of God in Christ may be manifested in the day when Christ returns.
Rejoice, if you are one of those exceptions that lives in His fear, and praise Him for that exceptional work in Christ on the cross and by His Spirit in your heart.