with the praises of my mouth;
I will praise Him in the company of many.
to rescue their souls from those who judge and condemn them.
Ah, February! The month of LOVE. Sweetness abounds and hearts are all aflutter as winter pauses from its seemingly endless cold to remember a martyred, late third century priest. The prevailing dominance of affection warms us all.
But in a practical, 365 days a year sense, what does LOVE in its truest sense look like to those of us raising a child with special needs?
Sadly, that LOVE can be something we rarely receive.
Persevering with us through the good, the bad, and the ugly
Lifting us up with tenderness when life knocks us down
Few words and MUCH comfort
Instead, people find it easier to try and "fix" us, offer "magic bullets" in the form of words, downplay our suffering or avoid us altogether. People's platitudes can add hurt upon hurt.
Unfortunately, some of the worst offenders seem to be Christians. The people that come to mind in my own life are the ones who seem to think it is more helpful to offer me spiritual admonition than to offer my children a ride home when they can see I am in a pinch. They will make value judgments on my marriage or my parenting, but never care enough to sit and spend time with us. They will give the melodramatic "I'm praying for you" look and touch in church, but promptly gossip about us and never think of being inconvenienced to help in hours of greatest need.
Don't get me wrong, not all Jesus-lovers are like this. As the saying goes, criticism rings louder than praise. And it just always seems to pack an extra punch to the gut when you receive toxicity from someone who claims that they are sharing the love and Good News of Christ.
The same can be true of family.
Those closest to us can always seem to wound us the greatest.
So, this Valentine's season, I would like to ask people around me to please stop saying such things, if they truly care. If you love me, don't say, "It could be worse." That is dismissive of my heartaches and minimizes the crises I go through. My husband tells me that I should reply, "Yeah, it could be worse -- It could be happening to YOU!". But I would really prefer not to swing back like that.
If you love me, don't say, "God already has it handled," or "You just need to trust and rest in Him," or throw another stinkin' Bible verse at me because you think it will magically show me the light and make my problems go away. I spend every morning in the Word. Do you? Words like this thrown at a suffering person only intimate that they are not walking with the Lord and not trusting Him. Even those in God's "Hall of Fame" wrestled with Him, like Jacob. It is hurtful folly to suppose a person is not in God's good graces just because they are overwhelmed by some bad circumstances.
If you love me, don't say, "You should really try going gluten-free," or "Maybe you shouldn't be giving her so much sugar," or "You need to try attending this parenting seminar." I know you probably mean well. Some of those things likely worked for you. I am so glad for that. But I am a completely overwhelmed mom with no help from relatives and little help from friends. Your words unintentionally translate as, "If you would only do __________, your child wouldn't have special needs," or at least those special needs wouldn't be nearly as bad. In a way, it's like blaming a parent for their child's diagnosis.
If you love me, you don't have to say anything, other than maybe, "That's the pits," or "What can I do to help?". Just hug me, let me cry, and strengthen me with your presence. Be there with me for the long haul, not waiting in the wings waiting to tell me what you think I should do next, but surprising me with the validation that I'm a good mom when I feel most defeated.
God is my greatest supporter and ally. He knows my isolation and suffering. And He uses people in this world to send His comfort and compassion to me. On any given day you get to decide with your words and actions -- Will God use me today to tenderly build up or will I foolishly use my own strong opinions in ways that might add hurt upon hurt? Choose wisely.
PRAY: Father, guard our hearts and minds because they are easily wounded and misguided. Help us to extend to one another the same loving mercy we desire to have. In love, may we build one another up, rather than clumsily tearing one another down.
~ Barb Dittrich