|Photo image courtesy of Ambro via freedigitalphotos.net|
If a man comes into your church dressed in expensive clothes and with valuable gold rings on his fingers, and at the same moment another man comes in who is poor and dressed in threadbare clothes, and you make a lot of fuss over the rich man and give him the best seat in the house and say to the poor man, “You can stand over there if you like or else sit on the floor”—well, judging a man by his wealth shows that you are guided by wrong motives.
Listen to me, dear brothers: God has chosen poor people to be rich in faith, and the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs, for that is the gift God has promised to all those who love him. And yet, of the two strangers, you have despised the poor man. Don’t you realize that it is usually the rich men who pick on you and drag you into court? And all too often they are the ones who laugh at Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear.
Yes indeed, it is good when you truly obey our Lord’s command, “You must love and help your neighbors just as much as you love and take care of yourself.” But you are breaking this law of our Lord’s when you favor the rich and fawn over them; it is sin.
Life in the special needs community is a lesson in living with weirdos. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but take it with the lighthearted humor it is meant. It doesn't take long after our child's diagnosis for us to find ourselves in the great company of the not-so-typical world. After all, our "special" or "rare" eventually becomes our new "normal."
In this world, we find ourselves increasingly surrounded by people with whom we may not otherwise have ever associated. They may come from a different social class, faith background, or age group. For example, there's the couple whose car looks like it was just stolen from the recycling yard. There's the mom whose hair style is long outdated. There's the dad who is balding and in desperate need of a dental implant.
It doesn't just have to do with looks. Some of us have encountered the parent who has no sense of personal space during a conversation. Others endure the person who behaves as if they are the only one who has a child with a diagnosis, too busy to be bothered with anyone but themselves. There are those who never stop being overly needy, not to mention the ones who are just plain awkward. Still others we can't get off the phone, because they cannot stop ruminating about an issue.
If you are raising a child with a disability, chronic illness, or special need, you know exactly what I am talking about. Some people even came to your mind as you read this.
I first heard individuals like this described by Pastor Rick Warren in his book The Purpose Driven Life as "EGRs," or Extra Grace Required people back in 2002. What a lovely, polite way of characterizing such people who make us recoil or dance on our last nerve! People like this need extra patience, forgiveness, and understanding. Yes, those outliers can be more politely described as EGRs.
Still, there's the rolling of the eyes... And the phone avoidance when we see their number on Caller ID... And the getting up to sit somewhere else when they plant themselves right next to us. Classifying them as EGRs is ultimately no better.
Yes, folks, even those of us who are marginalized are guilty of marginalizing others. Sad, isn't it? Those of us who should know better, treat others as less-than.
How do we turn that around? Realize that YOU are somebody's EGR! Treat EVERY human being the way you would want to be treated. Every single one of us get on somebody's nerves. There is not a person in this world who isn't the recipient of another person's judgment or criticism. With nearly 50% of all Americans experiencing mental illness at some point in their lives, it's safe to state that there are a great many of us who are fighting some sort of unseen battle in our lives of which others are completely unaware.
Pride and arrogance are the underlying sin here. What makes us think we are so much better than another person? Because we are more fashionable? Because we don't obsess like that other parent in the small group does?
Once we embrace the fact that we individually are all hopeless sinners that get on somebody else's nerves, in need of extra grace, forgiveness, and understanding, our humility opens the floodgate to peace. That person that agitates us gets under our skin a little less. We develop true, deep friendships with people who don't look like us, smell like us, or act like us. We love more like Jesus.
So, my fellow EGR, let's go out there transformed in the way we approach others. When the world sees our redeemed lives, they just might actually believe there's a Redeemer!
PRAY: LORD, I confess my arrogance and pride today, thinking myself better than others. Forgive me, not only of the times I have judged others, but also the times when I have insensitive to how I have annoyed others. Conform my character more to Your image, Jesus. It's far more beautiful than mine!
~ Barb Dittrich