Tuesday, May 5, 2015

When Your Child Is the Elephant in the Room

"When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.' So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” Luke 19: 5-6 (NIV)

"She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me,' for she said, 'I have now seen the One who sees me." Genesis 16:13 (NIV)


There were so many times when I wished I had just kept my mouth shut, wished I'd never told anyone that he had autism. Maybe it would've been easier if they didn't know. 

But who am I kidding? I've never been great at keeping a secret. Everyone knew

And unfortunately, many brought their prior misconceptions and preconceived "Rain Man" notions to the table. They were scared before we ever got out of the gate. There was that look of pity, that "uh-oh, here he comes" deer-in-the-headlight glaze in their eyes. 

I tried to educate, but I was learning, too. I felt like I was supposed to be the expert and yet I didn't know what to expect, what was going to happen, how things might turn from one day to the next. My emotions were all in a jumble with fear constantly rising to the top.

A friend of mine had a child with the same diagnosis, and I thought she was so smart. Because when she joined the church, she didn't tell.

They figured it out eventually, of course. When the behavior is the disability, it's hard to hide it for long. But my friend had been burned before, so she went in with a secret tucked inside her belt and didn't mention the little fact that her child had Asperger's.

I don't think that's the right way to approach things. . . not really. But it sure is tempting. 

People react in all kinds of different ways when they find out your child has special needs. 

  • Some are skeptical, finding it hard to believe the diagnosis is real because it's an invisible disability. 
  • Some show pity. 
  • Still others accept the diagnosis, but don't bat an eyelash because after all, your child is still the same child, just with a medical code now attached to his identity. Thank God for those people.

But the vast majority of people don't really know how to react. I can't say that I blame them. I wasn't sure how to react myself. 

People usually don't know what to say. As a result, they often don't say anything at all.

And there it is. This big unspoken thing that is your child's diagnosis. It looms over your whole world like a dark storm cloud. 

It's the proverbial elephant in the room.

Everyone sort of smiles around it and acts like it isn't there. Because it's easier to just ignore the issue than to accept the discomfort it brings. If we can all just be happy and act normal and pretend that pesky things like disability aren't real, then everything would go so much more smoothly, right?


My friend's son was diagnosed with cancer a little over a year ago. She was devastated, just as you'd expect, but I remember her telling me how some people quit talking to her after they received the news. People didn't know what to say and they didn't want to make things worse. . . so they just avoided her altogether. And it was hurtful.

Being ignored hurts. Being unseen hurts. Feeling like you are suddenly invisible hurts.

Jesus was never one to ignore an elephant in the room. 

There were plenty of them in his day: tax collectors, prostitutes, political zealots, lepers, and more. They were the people that many liked to pretend didn't exist. They were the scorned, the social outcasts, the marginalized. 

When Jesus told His parable of the good Samaritan, he talked about how even the good guys like the priest and the Levite would walk right on by. It was easier not to get their hands dirty.

But Jesus didn't operate that way.

Maybe that's why he stopped beneath a tree one day in Jericho and called Zacchaeus down, letting him know that he planned to pay him a visit. 

Zacchaeus, a prince among tax collectors, despised by the people, a complete social outcast, hidden in the branches.  And then . . . noticed, seen, called by name. 

The Hebrew Bible gives many names to God, but one of my favorites is the name "El Roi," the God who sees.

Never one to walk by without noticing, Jesus SAW people. He saw their suffering, he acknowledged their problems and their pain, he loved and he touched and he healed. He never ignored.

And Jesus sees you, too.

Jesus sees not only the elephants in the room, but the wallflowers and doormats, too. He draws near to the ones who are down and out, the ones despised and ignored and forgotten, the ones the world just doesn't know what to do with. He sees them most of all.

As parents of special needs kids, we know what it's like to feel unheard, unseen, misunderstood. But Jesus sees. He sees us, He sees our kids, and most of all, He sees our hearts.

The world might make you feel invisible. But Jesus never will.

He is God incarnate, a God who willingly became human so that He could know -- intimately know -- everything you go through. 

  • That's a love worth noticing. 
  • That's a love that's life-changing. 
  • That's a love that fills a room so much that even a proverbial elephant becomes small. 

That's Jesus.


How we thank you, God, that you are indeed the God who sees. You see down to the core of the heart, you know our pains and our joy. You see and understand the struggles we face because You, Lord, faced them as well. You sent your beloved Son, sweet Jesus, the suffering servant to earth to become one of us, to know our hurts and our fears and to know them intimately. May we be ever mindful of your loving gaze upon us. 

1 comment:

  1. Sheri Dacon, thanks for the reminder that we are never alone with our elephant in the room and neither are our kids with special needs. Thanks for adding this post to DifferentDream.com's Tuesday special needs link share.