|Photo image courtesy of Comaniciu Dan via 123rf.com|
That question might be asked when there is a recent hospitalization or initial job loss, but the faithful stop asking shortly thereafter. Parents raising kids with these challenges need that question asked again and again and again over a lifetime. Most of the time, the answer to that question will be "Great," or even, "Fine." But Christians never bother to ask this question of others for fear of what the answer might be. They are afraid we might require too much of them. Our lives are too depressing to be around. (How do they think it feels for US?) We're too messy, too complicated, to uncomfortable to be around.
They want a tidy little missions box that they can step into and then leave whenever they tire of their charitable acts. They want to go with the cool kids on that short-term trip overseas. They want to look like the secular social change crowd, swooping down and snapping a photo with the poorest, neglected individual of different skin color and language they can find, but then return to their largely convenient middle class world of comfort.
Still, the parent raising a child with difficulties remains in their own backyard neglected, marginalized, and ignored. The World marches onward, failing to realize they are one emergency room visit away from being just like that mother or father. That parent doesn't get a break. They can't just call the sitter down the street to watch their child on the autism spectrum. The medical bills flood in, and this parent doesn't even know what a vacation is, never mind flying to a flashy destination. While other kids are sending in college applications, these parents are wondering what adulthood might look like for their son or daughter who cognitively remains a child.
This all might be a bit easier to bear if someone, anyone in The Church had found these individuals worthy of their time, if someone had built real community with them. The future might look a little brighter if connections had been made in small groups or if the hip NextGen ministry had just included their kid as a normal part of life. Jesus might be real to these folks if they had actually seen Him in the presence of those who claim to be His passionate followers. They might not look at the pro-lifers with disdain if those same people decrying abortion would actually offer some support after the baby is born.
I apologize if this all seems too harsh, too negative, too angry. This is the sea of lost souls I peer into every day, wishing more people would step up beside me to join in the long-term mission of offering them Hope.
The bottom line is, Pity, Party-of-One is so popular with parents like us because no one else cares enough to attend. I am not saying that we need pity, but our emotions quickly and easily dissolve into self-pity when we are starved of compassion. The Body of Christ is uniquely positioned to step up and offer that compassion in a long-term, life-changing way. It would be great if it would actually do it.
PRAY: El Roi, You are the "God Who Sees Me". You see each one suffering in isolation and marginalization right here in our midst. Now activate Your people to reach out and do the hard work of loving and building community with these families long-term. Remind us not to do the expedient or easy things, but the deep work necessary to reflect Your glory to a hurting world. May we look more like Jesus and less like the self-absorbed culture of our modern world.
~ Barb Dittrich
* For further reading: A small church doing big things…Ellen Stumbo