Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Jesus and Temple Grandin Set Me Straight

“……Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”  Deuteronomy 33:12, NIV

I was so excited to hear Temple Grandin speak last week and she did not disappoint. For one thing she has a great sense of humor. When asked how to teach social skills to teenagers she said something to the effect of, Well, I’m not sure that’s a teachable life skill….HA! And while talking about a boss from her younger days who told her she needed to use deodorant she quipped, “Being eccentric is okay but you can’t be a slob!”

A professor at Colorado State University who also revolutionized the way cattle are handled, Grandin is perhaps the most famous person diagnosed with autism. She shared many interesting things from tips to helping kids who are different succeed, (less screen time; more time doing real stuff!) to some basic ideas to help people learn to read, (try different colors of paper besides white as the background) but one thing I especially needed to hear was that autism isn’t the first or most important thing that defines her. 

Being a parent of someone with autism I need to remember this. As my older son, Brandon, put it, “Mom, you’re kind of obsessed with autism.” 

While it is needed and right to be educated and do the best I can for Luke, who has autism, Brandon and Temple Grandin both have me wondering. Am I remembering that first and foremost Luke is a 10-year-old kid who God created and loves? That God made him to LOVE the outdoors, the water and being active? Am I putting too much of his identity in his diagnosis?

And here’s an even tougher question-- what about my own identity? Am I living out the reality that I am God’s loved daughter first or has my identity gotten too wrapped up in being a warrior/advocate/caregiver for Luke? Yes, God has called me to that but this shouldn’t be the sum total of who I am or of my only purpose in life; at least in my opinion. But in the 24/7 world of caregiving it is SO EASY TO FORGET OURSELVES. Who God has made us to be.  

Some things that describe me include: Christ-follower, wife, daughter, mom, friend, heart for evangelism, writer, change-maker, tennis player, reader, lover of hanging out with friends, frozen Cokes, the sound of waves crashing on the beach, dogs and all things chocolate.

All these things and more God has built into me. 

Brennan Manning, in his wonderful book “Abba’s Child”, writes about a man named John Eagan.  According to Manning, Eagan was an ordinary man whose journal was published after he died. Eagan wrote in the journal what his mentor shared, saying he would ponder it for all his years. 

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God.  God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.”

Wow. Just wow.

The basis of our personal worth is not being a parent of someone with special needs nor is it our spiritual gifts, talents, or anything else we can think of. We, along with our children, have worth and value because of God’s love for us.  This is where our true identity lies. 

Prayer:  Lord help us to remember where our identity comes from and that is your love for us.  Help us to know in our heads and feel in our hearts more and more the truth of your great love. 

By Deb Abbs

*Manning, Brennan (1994), Abba's Child, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, p 49

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