Thursday, October 11, 2012

Disney or Disability?

Which will leave the deepest footprint in your child’s soul?

Every time I see another friend’s pictures from a family trip to Disney, I have to fight a first-world-problem voice – the one that tries to tell me that we’re depriving our son because we haven’t taken him yet. I know it’s a lie, but I want to take him sometime, so that shallow thought never fails to show up with the pictures.

I don’t know if you’ve ever wrestled with feeling like your kids are missing out if they haven’t stood in the gateway to the Magic Kingdom. But let me ask you a seemingly-unrelated question. Have you ever thought about the impact on your children if they’ve never had the opportunity to look in the face of disability?

For lack of better segue, let me simply switch from my mom hat to my little girl hat here. As a child, I had the unique opportunity to walk through life with two families in our church who each had a young adult with special needs. Of course, this was before society was using the term, special needs. But we didn’t need it – because these folks had names, of course. And that was enough.

So while my impressionable view of the world (and the people in it) was forming, I was seeing people around me interact with these folks, hearing the sound of my parents’ voices exchange with theirs, and learning how to build relationships that aren’t based on commonalities, but delighted in differences. Of course I wasn’t consciously observing all this. I didn’t know that those ordinary Sunday morning moments were collecting as memories that would impact me for life.
But I do now.

Because as a result of my family’s regular involvement in those families’ lives, and theirs in ours, these are the precious gifts I was given:
     • A solid understanding of the value that each person on this planet possesses
     • A comfort with spending time with people who are different than I am
     • And the eyes to see that those differences are the very ways that the Lord reveals His glory through them

But I didn’t receive these sacred gifts by hanging out with these families for just a day or two. They came over time, as our families were involved in each other’s lives. Season after season, year after year.

I thought about these childhood experiences last week when I read a blog post by a mom who wrote a letter to the people around her son (who has epilepsy) who didn’t know what to say to him.
So they said nothing.

Folks, if we don’t model the privilege of living life with people who are different from us, we become the ones impaired.
And so do our children.

We desperately need to step out of our relational tunnels to embrace horizons of relational diversity. Might that be uncomfortable? Maybe. But why does that have to matter? Is comfort the goal? Is that the decision-making we want to model to our children?

Instead of letting the prospect of discomfort negatively influence your decisions, lean into the uncomfortable.
Welcome it as a close friend.
Because discomfort is the doorway to Dependence.

If this is unfamiliar territory and the thought’s intimidating, that’s okay. Ask the Lord to open your mind to taking the first step despite the intimidation, and remember that He’s greater than our feeble hearts. If you don’t know where to begin, just ask the Lord. He’ll gladly show you the first step.

Here are a few ideas that come to mind, but I’d love for you to add YOUR ideas in a comment to inspire our other readers!

     • Plug into your church’s special needs ministry. If it doesn’t have one, why not start one? I have a friend who can help you!
     • Initiate a relationship with somebody who’s chronically ill and house-bound. Start with a simple e-mail! (If you need insight or encouragement before you reach out, e-mail me – because I've been there!)
     • Invest time in a local soup kitchen or shelter. (You’ll be surprised how much you actually have in common.)
     • Develop friendships with people who are old and grey like we’ll all be in a few years. (Or if you’re the old and grey one, reach out to a young family – we need your wisdom!)

Place yourself in unfamiliar opportunities where you feel totally inadequatebecause that’s where God’s power is made perfect.
And that’s when our eyes are opened to behold God’s glory.

Have you ever read the brief dialogue in John 9? It’s become a favorite of mine. Somebody asked Jesus why a man was born blind. And you know what He said?
So the power of God could be seen in him.

So am I proposing that we shouldn’t take our kids to Disney? Not at all.
Am I proposing that the memories from a trip to Disney pale in comparison to the impact of walking through life with folks who have special needs?
You BET I am.
A million times over.

Because think about it: We’re talkin’ about man-made magic, versus God-breathed glory . . .

Lean into the uncomfortable, my friend, even if you’re afraid.
Let it serve you and your family well. And others, too.
And get ready to experience true glory days.

(Pssst! Wanna hear a secret? The more you broaden your relational horizons, the more your discomfort will fade into a warm sunset of abundant joy. It’s a win-win!)

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A Few of my Favorite Disability-Related Resources

Free eBook: Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God

Blog post: Disability and Dads: Where Desperation Meets Delight

My Good Friend’s Blog: The Works of God Displayed
(a boat-load of posts, info, and answers about special needs ministry in the Church)

The compelling post I read last week: Letter to the Others

Linking up with The Alabaster Jar's Marital Oneness Mondays and The Parent 'Hood
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