Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Of Hate Mail & Loving Children: Part 2

In our last post, I shared how my mentoree and I found ourselves in deep conviction and conversation after reading Jolene Philo's entry "Children Are a Gift From the Lord, Period", from her book A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations  for Parents of Critically or Chronically Ill Children*.   We discussed how we are the defenders of our kids, making the case for their value in this dark culture.  We are their advocate, fighting for their rights when people want to steal from them even their very right to be alive.  Much of our time is spent pointing out to the world how life would not be the same without our kids, they are a blessing, and despite their challenges, they change us all for the better.  And yet, there is this nagging inner struggle in our own hearts that can still exist.

Nearly ever parent has times where they feel their child is a burden rather than a blessing.  This is even true of those who have typical children with no diagnoses.  The extra challenge for those of us raising children with special needs is that we have additional circumstances that bring us to that crossroad where we can either see things as the glass being half full or the glass being half empty.  The worst of our society sees our children as a burden, will we?

In Galatians 6, beginning in verse 2 and ending in verse 5, we are told to, "Carry each other's burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ...  Each person will have to carry their own load." (CEB).  Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend make the case in their famous Boundaries** books that while God intended us to each bear the load of daily living, there are times when each of us have an overwhelming situations where we need others to come alongside us.  Our maturity is displayed in knowing the difference between the two.  (See "Dependency -- Key to Our Needs" by Dr. John Townsend)

Let's look at how the Bible's original language describes the word "burden" in Galatians 6.  One of the greatest recommendations ever given to me was by my friend, Margo Fieseler.  She made me aware of the NIV Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible.  This terrific resource explains that the Greek word used for burden in Galatians 6 is "baros" or "weight".  Baros is also the root of words meaning "under pressure", "with difficulty", "weigh down excessively", "to become heavy", "to grieve", "heavy", "important", "savage", "fierce", and "very expensive".  Look at those translations!  Who of us have not felt under pressure, grieving, or weighed down excessively in dealing with our child's special needs?  There's no doubt that the battle is savage and fierce, and the cost of their treatment is very expensive.  There will be times when we need help from others in carrying these overwhelming issues.

Yet, God calls our children "gifts", a "blessing".  Drs. Cloud and Townsend make the case that we have troubles with our personal boundaries when we confuse our burdens and our loads.  Perhaps the NOG translation of those same verses from Galatian 6 better clarify the difference, "Help carry each other's burdens.  In this way you will follow Christ's teachings...  Assume your own responsibility." 

It may sound harsh, but perhaps we view our kids as burdens when we are being selfish and don't want to assume responsibility.  Maybe we aren't caring for ourselves on a regular basis, eating right, getting exercise, and enough sleep.  When we reach the point of being so depleted, our children can seem like burdens rather than blessings.  It could even be that we have succumb to the relentlessness of the accuser, working through the unkind words and actions of others around us, convincing us that our child is trouble rather than a treasure.  I have been guilty of all of these things at one time or another.

The key to getting out of this negative thinking is to give control of my view, my perception to the Lifter of my head.  (See Psalm 3:3)  When I allow God to lift my chin, fixing my eyes heavenward rather than casting them down at my challenges, I can see only glory.  I rise above any troubles, real or merely perceived, that occur in my life.  The Lord exchanges my limited, selfish or stressed view for his own limitless, conquering, hopeful outlook.  Suddenly, the annoying behaviors of my daughter are my opportunity to not only build acceptance, but also share the Gospel of hope.  My son's every-other day infusions are part of a regular routine as well as a chance to meditate on the power of the blood of Jesus.  I exchange my depression or bad attitude for one of glad joy.

Friend, almost all of us are there at some point in time.  The next time you feel discouraged and begin to view your child as a burden, go ahead and view the situation as such, but allow the Lifter of your head to bear that burden and draw your eyes toward Him, readjusting your view of your son or daughter as a person.  Most of the time, you will be carrying a daily load just like anyone else in this life.  For the times when things are so serious that you are overwhelmed, He will carry you, both through the power of His presence and through the loving hands of others He inspires to help you.  Enjoy the treasure of your child.  They are one of God's greatest miracles.

PRAY:  Jesus, wash my heart and mind clean when I view my child as a nuisance rather than Your precious present to me.  Thank You that you help me bear every burden and carry on with my daily load.  Holy Spirit, mature me to a level where I see things through Your eyes rather than through my own limited view.  Thank You that you give each person immense value and worth.

*Philo, Jolene (2009), A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations for Parents of Critically or Chronically Ill Children, Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, p. 149

**Cloud, Henry and John Townsend (1992), Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 49530

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