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When My Son Asks, 'Why Didn't God Give Me an Ear?'

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“Why did God make me this way?”

It’s often said we are not given more than we can handle, or God gives special needs to special people. I’m going to call this one out and say that is crap.

It’s my son’s 8th birthday this weekend. This year has not been easy for him. Joel was born without an ear and is missing some of the bone structure within his face. He also is hearing and vision impaired. He looks different from other children, and unfortunately society is not always so accepting of looking different or acting differently.

I think a lot about the challenges of facial disfigurement: the surgeries, the stares, and comments. I think about him looking in the mirror everyday and thinking, maybe if I grow my hair a little longer, or wear a hat, or maybe just not go outside. I see him creeping closer to my side when we leave our small community because outside our town, people tend to stare. I notice his hesitations in new places with new people. His moves are calculated, and I note that he likes to have his “bad” side pointed towards me. I imagine he feels it’s less noticeable, and there is security in that. These subtle changes I am witnessing tell me he is slowly creeping towards feeling ashamed of his appearance and differences, and I am a bit lost. I have no prosaic statements or platitudes. No magical words can be the balm for his self doubt and fear.

This last Halloween, he talked in detail about the costume he wanted to wear. He wanted to be Darth Vader and wear a cool mask. It was an expensive costume, but I purchased it without hesitation. It was not lost on my husband and I that Joel could walk around “normal” for one day of the year. He could go out in public and there wouldn’t be sideways glances or small children pointing fingers.  No mothers shushing their kids and whisking them away before they asked where his ear went.

little boy in darth vadar mask

And I wouldn’t be straining to hear their answers. I wouldn’t be hoping they would have a perfect answer of why God made him without an ear. I know it’s not because he is a special person who can handle more than others. Because honestly, who wants to hear and believe that?

I keep searching and listening because I want to know the answer to this very question. I have laid in his bed and stroked his jet black hair. I’ve marveled at the fine details of his lips and long eyelashes any woman would kill for. I have touched and know the structure of his face and wondered how to ease his fears.

I have listened without words or answers as he has asked me, “Why didn’t God give me an ear?” And my answer will never be because you are able to handle it. Because I know there will be moments he can’t handle it. There will be times he is angry and not feeling so special. There will days he stands in front of a mirror and sees himself as ugly and unlovable. And I’m not going to tell my son God created him this way because he is somehow superior in his coping abilities. No, I am not.

boy holding a darth vadar mask

I have learned sometimes there are no answers, there is only listening. I am learning some answers while well intended, can hurt more than help. Joel needs me to show him  his facial difference is only one small element of who he is. Most importantly, Joel needs to know he is not an accident or any less than he should be. We all have our blemishes, imperfections, and problems. As we celebrate my son’s birthday, I will look upon him and see beauty because I will see him for what he has, not for what is missing. I will see a child whose parts inside and out have been mended together to create a beautiful 8-year-old boy.

Follow this journey on Ransom for Israel.

Originally published: July 27, 2016
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