|Photo image courtesy of geralt via Pixabay.com|
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of 40 days in the Christian Church calendar known as Lent. This period of time is usually marked by fasting, praying, penitence, and reflection.
More commonly, people seem to habitually fixate on what they are going to give up as part of this tradition. When I was a kid, we used to give up things like candy (Instructive, of course, for learning the life skill of self-denial). With my adult friends today, I've seen some of them take this opportunity to quit smoking, drink less alcohol, declutter their homes, and even stop discussing politics (Boy, isn't THAT a good one this year!).
But rather than inventing things to do, what if we focused on the real meaning of this exercise? Lent provides us with a chance to spend some "desert time" with our own shortcomings and sins face-to-face. This helps us recognize our need for a Savior by the time Good Friday rolls around. We end up with a humbled and broken spirit that finally appreciates the magnitude of Easter in a greater way.
As the parents of a child with a disability, chronic illness, rare disease, or special needs, I think Lent provides us with some deep areas in which to repent. So this Lent I suggest we give up...
- Beating ourselves up with guilt -- Satan is known as the accuser. STOP doing his work for him! I know well feelings of inadequacy or cringing at my mistakes in parenthood. I even know the sadness of passing a genetic illness on to my child. But I have to challenge you -- Is that guilt and shame really producing anything positive in your life? If you have fallen short in any area of your life, learn from it, repent of it, and move on. Jesus is the judge and jury, and he proclaims that you are dearly loved and forgiven. Take His free gifts of grace and mercy and move on.
- Holding grudges against relatives that just don't get it -- When we stay angry at people for prolonged periods of time it's like drinking poison hoping the other person dies. I always find it effective to remember who I was before I became the mother of a child with a rare disorder. It humbles me. I KNOW I didn't get it. I'm quite sure I said foolish, hurtful things without realizing it. And while I'm sure I would have tried to adjust my life to give someone else close to me understanding, I know that God didn't make us all the same. I'm far enough along this parenting journey to know that we can't change people, only the way we choose to respond to them. I choose to respond more and more with the mercy given to me. It makes me and everyone else around me much happier. I urge you to do the same.
- Expecting perfection -- The demands involved with raising a child who has challenges are high. Pinterest is a fantasy. Stop thinking your life must look like the most polished photos and blogs you see floating around. How many times have we all thought, "Wow! How does she do all that? I can barely get by with what I have on my plate. I must be a lightweight." You're not a lightweight. The truth is that some people have more of a support system than others of us. We also each have very different thresholds and capacity. Comparison is a thief and it's the wicked fertilizer that feeds perfection. Kick it out the door.
- Worrying to excess about our child -- They say that worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere. I attended a hemophilia family retreat years ago where a University of Wisconsin - Madison professor explained 97% of what we worry about never happens. That's a lot of wasted energy! Jesus so clearly identified the problem with worry that it was a core part of his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (See Matthew 6:25-34.) Our kids sense our internal emotion when we are worrying. It limits them and turns them into worriers themselves. I don't know about you, but my deepest desire in raising my kids has been that they each function to the best of their ability in case I get run over by a truck. Being continually anxious about them and their issues does not advance my cause in that area. Join me in taking a deep breath these next 40 days, realizing that God is watching over them and loves them immeasurably more than we ever could.