Press on Toward the Goal

USE Press on toward the goal

My dad would often tell me that when Billy Graham was asked what surprised him most about life, he answered, “the brevity of it all.” It’s true—all of a sudden it’s 2016 and my son Max has just turned 25. Along with brevity, this new year’s day reminds me of several other startling truths:

1) It is becoming less plausible that I’m carrying postpartum baby weight.

2) Max has grown a beard, which means he looks far more sophisticated when he carries a teddy bear.

3) We have survived a quarter-century of life with autism.

But something happened 10 years ago that has made me acutely aware of the brevity of life, and gave me just the push I needed.

Max was 15 at the time. Even thought he was in a wonderful school, my legs were like rubber as I walked into our team meeting. A dozen well-dressed individuals were seated around the long conference room table. As I thanked the staff for their hard work with Max, I could hear my own heart pounding as if the base were turned up too loud on a radio.

We discussed Max’s progress, and challenges, and the goals for the next year. It was going well, until we came to the parent vision statement, a section on his Education Plan giving parents an undisputed voice to share their hopes and dreams for their child’s future. The teacher read through the words from last year’s education plan, a vision I had worked so hard to write.

“How does it sound? Is this still your vision for Max’s future?” the teacher asked, as she sat behind her laptop and looked up at the screen.

My head went light and I could barely read the words on the screen.

“It’s fine,” I mumbled weakly. But it wasn’t fine. I was doe-eyed from the phone call with my surgeon, which had taken place just minutes before this team meeting had begun. I had been sitting in the school parking lot, phone pressed up against my ear, sucked back against the front seat of my car as if my body had been glued there by centrifugal force. The doctor gave me the surgical choices I would have to make to treat the rare form of melanoma that was once just a small dark ink-drop on my thigh. And then he gave me my odds of survival.

As I sat beneath the bright florescent lights in the conference room, surrounded by Max’s team, one thought began pounding in my head like a sledgehammer.

What if I’m not here next year to sit in another team meeting?

What if this is my last chance to speak up?

As if propelled by force, my words burst out. “I’d like to add something to my vision statement,” I said.

“OK,” the teacher said as she held her fingers to the keys, waiting.

All of my splintered thoughts collected into one, and in that moment I spoke with complete clarity.

“I want my son to become a man of God.”

Silence hung in the air, which only grew my resolve. We live in one of the most liberal states in the country, but I did not flinch, or explain myself. I did not have time. I became a graffiti artist marking a bridge or a building, a prisoner scratching his name on a cell wall. I knew this had to be the one lasting mark I would leave on my son’s life. This was my vision for my child’s future.

The room was silent. No one moved, not even me. And then I began to hear a soft clicking sound, like summer rain.

I didn’t even recognize the noise until I looked over and saw the teacher beginning to type. Slowly the words came to life on the screen, and in that moment, became an irrevocable part of my son’s Education Plan.

When she finished typing I held still. No one even breathed. Finally the older gentleman sitting across from me threw himself back in his chair and laughed as if he’d been holding it in for decades.

“In all my years,” he roared as he held his stomach like Santa Claus, “I have never seen anything like this in an Ed Plan!” His head darted from side to side, as he looked at the others who still sat stunned around the table.

I braced myself for opposition, to be told that my words about God could not be included in a state document, but instead an eruption of laughter and cheering filled the conference room. “This is great!” I heard a man yell. “Remember this moment! I think we just made history!” someone shouted. But I didn’t join in. I didn’t even respond. I just stared up at the words on the brightly lit screen. “For Max to become a man of God.”

Last week Max turned 25, our quarter of a century victory mark.

We have more than survived.

And my son is a mighty man of God, the mark that only God can place in a heart.

Today as we enter into 2016, may we go forward with boldness in our faith, remembering life is brief. This is our chance. Let’s do what matters most.

“This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13 – 14

Blessings and Joy to you in 2016

Emily Colson

13 thoughts on “Press on Toward the Goal

  1. Mike Beates

    Wonderful stuff Emily! And I am glad that 2016 may give us the opportunity to co-labor at a conference. Happy New Year. And glad too that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

  2. Val Tracy

    Oh, Emily. I am so touched and can identify with a lot of your story.
    Brought to tears and that is good. You have done a great job as a Mom. My niece had a baby about a month ago and they think he will have autism.. So??? We all love him and no diagnosis will change that.
    Thank you so much for the special witness you extend to your readers
    Praying for your strength in travel and speaking this year.

  3. Louise Bailey

    Thank you for taking a powerful stand. There is nothing more important in this life than our children to live and serve God.

    God bless you both throughout the new year and always.

  4. Judy

    Emily being a teacher & advocate for my son, I am so impressed I have never ever heard or seen this on an IEP & I have been a teacher for 15 years. What a brave & wise women you are. You are an inspiration for all mothers & teachers! God bless your courage & commitment to your son Max. He is a lucky man!

  5. Barbara Srnec

    Emily, were the people laughing at you because you wanted to include your vision of Max as a man of God?
    Wouldn’t it be neat if those folks could see Max now.

    I wish I could have convinced my special needs daughter that I am on her side.
    You’ve done that so well.

  6. Denie Sidney

    Thank you so much for giving me something to think about as my husband and I prepare for our daughter’s 3rd IEP mtg., something we thought we would never see. Life is very different since the first meeting. Lots to think and pray about before the meeting.

  7. Joyce Cummings

    Thank you Emily! I know that Max is becoming that Man of God that you envisioned! My son Curtis is now 12 and also growing into a fine young man who loves the Lord. He was baptized this previous spring. He is in seventh grade this year and while he is not on grade level for math and reading, he gets all A;s in science, social studies and chorus! Yes, he loves to sing! Around the house I have heard Amazing Grace and It is well with my Soul!

  8. Jo Robbins

    This was such a great post. Reminding us all of the hope we have in Christ and the call we share in that hope to share the truth of the gospel to everyone whether through our actions, words or deeds. God bless you for your walk and your witness that God has chosen Max to be another emissary …. And a mighty man of God!

  9. Monique Stam

    Your book, Dancing With Max, along with Jennifer Shaw’s song Your Child was the beginning of healing in my heart that had been long-delayed. I treasure this update! And I wold love to hear more about the steps into the journey of godliness for your young man. Do you write about that more somewhere?

  10. Bonnie Lyn Smith

    Oh my! Referred here via Key Ministry. This is fantastic. Sharing it with the special needs ministry that I facilitate at my church as well as on social media. Such a fantastic perspective! Thank you for reminding us of the real goal! Blessings!

  11. Shellie Power

    Emily, this is exactly what I needed to hear. I am using this as a devotional tonight with our parents group… we’re going to also be identifying hurdles and this is such a great perspective filled with words of courage. Thank You!


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