On September 24 of this year, Kim and I had the surreal experience of standing before a judge, seeking to make as clear and compelling a case as possible as to why we should be granted legal guardianship of our son Coleman.  There are very few subjects about which I feel that I possess an expert level of knowledge, probably only one, and Coleman is it.  Still, it was rather unnerving and intimidating for us to be providing answers to questions about his condition and his daily care to a person who had the legal authority to either grant or deny guardianship.  We felt the intense gravity of the situation every time we heard Coleman referred to as a “ward” during the proceeding.  I now have a little insight into the emotional implications of being “at the mercy of the court.”

We have known for years that we would need to secure legal guardianship of Coleman after he turned 18.  From a parental standpoint, this seemed totally counterintuitive.  We have cared for him every single day of his life, through all of the ups and downs, joys and sorrows, victories and setbacks that accompany developmental disabilities and chronic illness.  He was indisputably “ours.”  However, from a legal standpoint, when he reached adulthood it would be necessary to demonstrate that he was incapable of caring for himself and that we were the ones best suited to continue providing for his health and well-being.

Despite our realization that this would be required at some point, it remained a “back burner” concern for us, even after he celebrated his 18th birthday early last year.  However, the issue got moved to the front burner very quickly in August when Coleman’s sedation dentistry procedure was cancelled by the surgical center on the day before it was scheduled to be performed because we did not have legal guardianship.  Suddenly, what had only existed as a vague concept for us now took on serious, concrete implications.  While Kim has lived in constant “advocacy mode” for Coleman for almost 20 years, she once again shifted that labor of love into warp drive with a flurry of phone calls.  Within a few days, we appeared before a judge on August 27 to gain emergency, temporary guardianship and had the hearing for permanent guardianship set for September 24.

It has always “taken a village” with Coleman, and God has consistently and faithfully provided the right people at the right time, in moments of both crisis and calm.  We are extremely grateful to Jerry Lundy (friend, brother in Christ, attorney), for helping us traverse the very unfamiliar legal landscape of the guardianship process.  Also, we deeply appreciate the counsel and practical insights shared with us by our friends Bill and Lawana Duwe, who for many years have provided 24/7 care for their son Ray who was disabled in a car accident.

At the end of the hearing, which was dominated by extremely matter-of-fact (somewhat stern) questions and statements by the judge, the tone became significantly more “human” and compassionate as she expressed her understanding and appreciation of the challenging demands of raising a disabled child and her confidence that Coleman would continue to be ably provided for under our care and guardianship.  While the petition was entirely uncontested and we couldn’t foresee any reason why the court would find otherwise, it was still a huge relief to see the judge sign the guardianship documents and witness them being embossed with the official seal of the court.

While Kim and I were somewhat perplexed and stressed by having to go through the guardianship process for Coleman, we understand that these legal statutes exist as part of the “ordinance of God” (Romans 13:1-7), serving to protect the interests of those in our society who are the most helpless, the most defenseless, and the most susceptible to being used and abused by others.  It is an extension of God’s own concern, care, and protection.

The language and status of guardianship caused me to reflect upon our relationship with our God and Savior.

I Peter 2:25 reads, “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls,” (New American Standard Bible).  The New Living Translation joins the NASB in rendering this second descriptive term of Jesus Christ as being our “Guardian.”  Other standard English translations go with “Bishop” or “Overseer” (it’s episkopos, for you Greek geeks).  The Aramaic Bible in Plain English translates, “the Caregiver of your souls.”

I love this figure of Jesus being our spiritual Guardian and Caregiver.  The language in the guardianship document stipulates that Kim and I are to act on Coleman’s behalf to “promote and protect” his well-being, doing things for him that he is entirely incapable of doing for himself.  That is precisely what has been done for us by “the Great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant,” (Hebrews 13:20).  Though we rightfully belonged to God as children made in the Creator’s own image, the guardianship of our souls was thrown into question because of sin and was fiercely contested by an Adversary and an Accuser.  It took the blood of Jesus Christ to satisfy the Court of the Most High.  We have now been sealed with the Holy Spirit, who serves as an authoritative mark of identification, authenticating the fact that we have been returned to the care and protection of our rightful Father.

It’s good to have a Guardian!