This year, I’m learning to have a quiet hope. My eight-year-old daughter has Down syndrome. Her already winding path took an unexpected turn at just six months of age, when a relentless storm of seizures wreaked havoc on her brain and body. The disabilities and delays left in the wake of her seizures touched every aspect of her life.
As my husband and I navigated her diagnosis, our family’s journey became a slow, steady pilgrimage into the unknown. Week after week, my husband and I sat on the physical therapy mat with our daughter, willing her muscles to awaken from their slumber, praying for the static in her brain to quiet down. In the midst of her struggle, we fielded questions from well-meaning friends and family, asking when she would take her first steps or speak her first words. We didn’t have answers.
Progress was achingly slow, and at times our efforts felt like a lost cause. During the pandemic we shifted to virtual therapy sessions, and clung to our computer screen, the lifeline to our daughter’s potential. As the isolation deepened and our hearts grew heavy with uncertainty, I reached a point where hope seemed as fragile as my daughter’s body, ready to bruise with the slightest touch. My husband persevered when I could not. Though I had slammed the laptop shut, finding that its quiet hum of hope had gone silent, he kept showing up for those virtual therapy sessions. He nurtured a flicker of expectation even when I had almost surrendered to despair.
As time passed and the world emerged from its slumber, we resumed our weekly treks to hospitals and clinics, parking our cluttered minivan in reserved disabled spots. Today, she’s in second grade, still unable to pull herself up, but with the aid of a helping hand or a gait trainer, her feet are able to find solid ground. With some assistance and assurance, she steps forward, hope unfurling to the cadence of her steps.
Friends, family, and even acquaintances have had recurring dreams of her walking. The first time I had this dream, I awoke feeling foolish for imagining something so audacious. I wrapped my tender hope back up in layers of self-protective armor. However, the shields I’ve carefully held for so long recently came down: I held my daughter’s hands as she stood before me, swaying to the worship band’s melody. As we sang, she propelled herself forward, her leg braces and pink sneakers pulling me along, heading toward the front of the sanctuary with increasing speed. I scooped her into my arms and could see what I hadn’t seen before—the profound truth that she was running into the loving arms of the Savior who cares.
The one who understands the depths of our humanity—who is well acquainted with our weary bones and aching hearts—calls her beloved, adores her, and, in a mysterious twist, also cherishes me—the doubter, the cynic, the mother who at times can only whisper the word hope.
God does not dismiss the desires we cradle in the quiet corners of our hearts. The God who spoke to Elijah in both the silence and the storm holds our fragile hopes and, as we see in Lamentations 3, calls our patience and perseverance good.
I may not know whether my daughter will run with abandon this side of heaven, but I do know this: the Lord is good to those whose hope is in him (v. 25). Lent beckons us to contemplate our fragility. Remember that even the anticipation of hope is a precious gift in this reflective season as we sojourn this weary world. When all you can see is unanswered prayer, do not despise the hints of hope while you wait.
When you wonder if even your faintest of cries for help are for naught, remember this: “It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God.” ( Lam. 3:25–26, MSG) May our hearts be filled with quiet hope as a sacred gift. May the faint echoes of this hope sustain us as we take halting, wobbling steps with God into the waiting, the darkness, and the unknown.
Kayla Craig is an author and the founder the Liturgies for Parents. Kayla lives in Iowa with her husband and four children.
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