Goldfish and Sparrows


I have a love/hate relationship with social media.

I love seeing updates from family and friends and reading encouraging posts. I really do! But then there are those posts, you know the ones, when friends with typical children post photos of their families doing things my son can’t do or traveling to places we will never be able to go. Those posts challenge me sometimes.

It seems to hit me the hardest at the milestone markers. For instance, it was particularly hard a few years ago when Jon Alex turned sixteen and his peers were getting their driver’s licenses. It was painful being reminded that he would never drive.  And now, when I see Facebook posts of people his age graduating from college or getting married… well, the loss washes over me in living color.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for the graduates and newlyweds.  I celebrate them! But watching from the sidelines, I often grieve the life we will never have.

I think one of the biggest struggles special needs parents face is the temptation to compare our lives to others in the “typical” world. We are like goldfish looking up to see sparrows fly overhead. Somehow the sparrows seem freer and happier in the sky, but they know nothing of how to swim and the mysterious magic of living underwater.

The big problem comes when a goldfish wants to be a sparrow. We are doomed to live a life of discontent when we do not joyfully accept the role in life we have been given. It is easy to get sucked into social media and begin thinking that our underwater world doesn’t live up to life in the sky. We see typical families doing things we will never be able to do, and we compare ourselves to them.  We walk right in to the trap of comparing totally different realities.

Sparrows are lovely and blessed to fly above it all, but we know the secrets found only by living the deeper life. We know how to breathe underwater, how to glide through situations that would kill a sparrow. We see a world that sparrows will never see. They will never know the beautiful treasures found underwater where things are magnified and intensified.

We all know that what people post on social media is just a highlight reel of their life. Most of our Facebook friends do not post the realities of their daily life.  They do not show the failures and disappointments, so when I compare the realities of my day-to-day life to someone else’s highlight reel…my life comes up short every time.  

I will always be disappointed if God created me to be a goldfish and I constantly measure my life against the people who were created to be sparrows. Both lives have beauty and purpose. The world would be less if we didn’t have one or the other. Both lives matter and both have meaning – but they will forever be distinctly and intentionally different. A sparrow has no need for fins, and a goldfish no need for feathers. How sad it would be if sparrows were always trying to swim and goldfish to fly. What a waste of divine purpose and destiny.

Here’s the truth friends, we must settle this issue in our minds. We must wholeheartedly accept and embrace our underwater life and stop wishing for feathers if we were given fins. We are only on this planet for a short while. If we live our lives devoted to God’s purpose, then we will have eternity to enjoy all the goodness of God. Someday all the pain, suffering, and disappointment will be gone. Someday we won’t need feathers or fins.

While we’re here on this earth let’s dive deep and discover all the mysteries hidden in the life we have been given. Stop right now and think of three things you love about the life you have that would be different if your child was typical.

Here are three of mine:

  1. Because Jon Alex cannot drive I will never have to stay up late worried about where he is and if he is ok.

  2. Because Jon Alex is non-verbal I never have to hear him curse, belittle someone else, or take God’s name in vain.

  3. Because Jon Alex has special needs I have come to know a world of goldfish who shimmer and shine like nothing I have ever seen in the sky. I am so glad I did not miss that!

So, be honest with me. What is your current attitude about your life right now?

Are you stuck comparing your life to others and finding yourself jealous of what they seem to have? Are you someone who ends up complaining about the life you have been given? Are you tempted to be bitter and angry about your life as a special-needs parent? Do you lash out in frustration at your family?

Are you okay with being a goldfish, or do you want wings?

What would people who know you the best say?

In this series, I will share with you some of survival skills that have helped me with the challenges I have faced as a special-needs parent. Together we will try to avoid the pitfalls of the comparison trap and learn to see life with a Godly perspective.

Think About It…

  1. Do you find yourself being lured into the comparison trap? What are your triggers?

  2. If you were asked to describe your life, what would you say? Would you portray it in a positive or negative way?

  3. Have you settled the goldfish/sparrow issue in your heart?


Thank you, Father, for the life You have given me. I am grateful that You are with me and that You have a specific role for me to play in the story You are telling. Help me embrace this assignment with joy.  Amen.

Becky Davidson