Thursday, March 25, 2010

All Eyes Are On YOU!

But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. (James 1:22, NLT)

Yesterday I had a rather humbling and eye-opening experience on the internet. A blog posting by a Christian homeschooling mom of 6 went viral with a number of mothers I connect to via social networking. They were enraged as this woman told the tale of a 4 year old's behavior in a library she was visiting with her children. The blogger was highly critical of the child and her grandmother, describing behavior which several of the readers identified as sounding like autism spectrum disorder. As readers posted comments bringing this possibility to the blogger's attention, she continued to insist that this child should have been better behaved regardless of diagnosis. When there were subsequent responses trying to explain how autism and its therapies work, things further escalated with the blogger lashing out at readers. Sadly, this is the same blogger who had just described herself as sitting in a library reading through her Bible.

Ironically, this all occurred on the same day that I had posted James 1:22 on a couple of my social networking venues. Not only does that verse convict me through and through, it shares my righteous indignation towards people who are all talk and no action when it comes to their claims of belief.

This brought me back to a time when my pastor, Dr. Terry Fulks, reminded us, "Whether you know it or not, people are watching you!" So many of us miss the high calling of professing ourselves as Christians. Each and every thing we do when we take on that name reflects upon The One we represent here on earth. When I lose my temper, it reflects poorly upon God. When I lack compassion, mercy, or understanding, I make God look bad. Why would anyone want to become a Christian when they see only harsh judgement, a critical spirit, self-righteousness and pride? In the debate on this contentious posting, one mom even shot me the quote by Ghandi, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." Ouch! That should make ANY of us more vigilant about how we act towards others!

Let me give it to you straight - Here's what Jesus espoused and still calls us to:
  • Love

  • Empathy

  • Helping one another

  • Mercy

  • Kindness

  • Humility

  • Patience

  • Joy

And these are just a few!

Being a leader in disability ministry, I regret to say that I still find "the church" to be difficult to work with when it comes to special needs families. Congregations can be too much like a club rather than a tender home for those who are weary and struggling. Both leaders and attendees can lose sight of Christ when they demand flawless, predictable services that exclude the disabled. Christians shame themselves when they refuse to do the dirty work of loving those that society considers unlovable or oppressed.

With the same token, I've seen plenty of families of kids with special needs clutch their bitterness like a tattered, rancid blankie. They self-righteously scoff at people who reject them claiming an unearned moral superiority. How easily families like us can forget that people need to be taught what it's like to live with a disability in the household. Before we became parents of kids with special needs, we too possessed an ignorant fear. Regardless, ALL are called to show mercy, love, forgiveness and patience to others.

My point is that we all need to go beyond merely listening to the word, claiming belief. Even Satan does that! We need to put it into practice DAILY. What that looks like changes minute by minute, especially when living with medical crises or unpredictable children. Starting each day with a prayer to look more like Jesus and less like ourselves will invite the Spirit in to do His perfect work on our hearts and thus, our behavior. No doubt, in our ugly humanity, we'll still slip up, but with far less frequency. And when we do falter, our humility and repentance will heal the wounds we inflict. That's a project big enough to keep each of us busy all they way to Eternity!


  1. I agree that education is the key too. I too am a homeschool mom of 6 and have special needs kids. Unfortunately all the education in the world often doesn't help. Unless others live it they usually can't relate to it. I know I used to think very differently about kids acting up and the like before I lived with it. It is true also, that a diagnosis is not an excuse for bad behavior, but a diagnosis also helps the parent and others know what to do and how to do it when situations come up. That's where education can help the most as in knowing what sets the child off, knowing what to do and not do when a tantrum happens, helping them use their calming strategies when a meltdown occurs, staying calm yourself, etc. I have found that ignorance is not bliss, it's hell. Knowledge, training, and understanding is power. By the way I love the flair "It's not Autism, it's Awetism" I think that's how it goes.
    Ann Gapinski

  2. Great post - very, very true about churches not doing as good a job as needed - we felt it acutely when my oldest was an Aspie middle schooler - but I see progress and remain hopeful :)

  3. Personally, I thought the blogger in question was sort of brandishing her Bible, so I didn't mention it in my blog post. Anyway, her attitude and the subsequent comments would have been hurtful no matter what the spiritual orientation of the writer.

    I'm keeping a list of blog responses here and have added this one.

  4. Friends,
    Thanks for posting this.
    I wrote to the blogger and told her that I planned to pray for her because she was in for a heck of day, and would be a day when she needed prayers. I told her that I don't blast other moms, so I wouldn't participate in the flare up that was underway (although I thought about it).
    Seeing someone behave in an unkind way, in the name of needing to focus on Christianity is a double blow.
    Something that keeps me going is that it is the quirkiest of people who become the most amazing adults. Just as Mary was chosen as just the right parent for Jesus, I was chosen to parent both of my boys-to make it across town to get to appointments, to collaborate with 10 people at a time, to be frugal when I want a new purse so we have $$ for the expensive activities they need to do (vs. cheap stuff like soccer & tee-ball they physically can't do),....all because He knew I was up for it and could make it work. Milestones, especially delayed ones, are miracles, and parents and special needs teachers get to see God's love for us every day, because we are looking so closely.
    Sorry she missed it in that little girl in the library. I was challenged today to be a better person and to talk to God about it. That's a good thing. I also tweeted my favorite verse today: Luke 1:37, and was RTed in minutes, and made some new friends.

  5. Barb, this is lovely. Thank you. As I've said elsewhere, I hope she will eventually realize this situation called for true Christian compassion -- but if her defensiveness is at all characteristic, she's unlikely to realize so now, while at criticism's receiving end.

  6. Amazingly, we are blessed to have people that run our religion program in our congregation really "get" our son, as well as a pastor that has been very understanding (it did take changing churches 4 times, but hey).

    None of us is perfect, and all of us sin. I can only hope that someday Smockity can have enough insight to see a little clearer.


  7. I read that post and was appalled. I am glad I found you through a friend. What an awesome group, and a great name too! Snappin' Ministries: Cute, I like that!

  8. Great post Barb! We, the church, have a long way to go.

  9. Thank you so, so much for this post. I'm a friend of the blogger who wrote that post, and also my mom works with the autistic and special needs children at our church, so I think I have a special perspective on the situation. I wish every single response she'd gotten had been like yours. If they had all been like this, things might have ended differently. As it is, she has received hundreds (literally) of profane and hateful emails from the autism community.

    I'm certainly not trying to say that she handled the situation perfectly - Smockity certainly answered that last commenter with less than perfect Christian charity - but I think her post *ought* to have been a springboard to teaching her about autism and not the start of a smear campaign. This post has been so very refreshing to me. You are right on just about all counts. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  10. Education brings compassion - it's time. Many in our generation were not exposed to or taught about peoples differences and disabilities I think with ignorance came fear and lack of acceptance. Let's educate and teach this new generation so we can stomp the stigma. April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day - your writing is very timely.

  11. LOVED this post! Thanks so much for writing it! I agree with you wholeheartedly! Just as they need to learn compassion for our special needs families, we need to learn compassion for their ignorance. They don't know until we teach them.

  12. Wonderful post. You are right on. We need to live it. God help us....

    Glad I found you.

    Windmills and Tulips

  13. This whole event has made me so very very sad.

    As a mom of a 3 year old who is on the "spectrum", I try to be a powerful advocate for my child. And I am. We work very hard to help our boy, who is beautiful, sweet, and nonverbal. But I am exhausted. And we are now getting to the point where I must start to avoid going places where he might not be very well received. Like the library, or the local pizza place, because I just can't tell you day to day how he might behave and if I can control him.

    I know it is my place to help those who do not understand, do not know, because of their lack of experience or perspective on this journey. But I am so tired. SOOO tired of giving all I have to this fight.

    So when I read a blogpost like what that blogger wrote, it cuts to the most open of wounds. This journey is so hard, so painful, for so many. And there is little compassion in the "general population" on a day to day basis. Yes, in my blog. Yes, by my family. But when I go to Target? When we "interupt" at church or out to eat? Not much. I live that everyday... and fear living that everyday....

    I say this only because the bitterness you speak of is real and true... and they should be able to let it go. To rise above and give those who need it compassionate perspective on this journey. But it is hard to gardner the energy. And when I see a post like that, and hear the contempt disguised as humor... oh, it hurts. So I do not excuse the viterol by the others. It was shameful, reactive, and failing our duty as parents and advocates. But i understand it.

    To those who know this blogger, please convey my regret that "our" community did not react in the highest manner. It should have been a teachable moment, open to dialog and learning. I hope she takes some moments to reconsider her motives, her reactions, and what compassion means. For ALL of us.