Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Are You a Pitcher or a Sponge?
What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.
~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, TLB ~
Back in 2002, I had an active, happy toddler who was battling a severe bleeding disorder. Life was HARD. There was no such thing as daily routine because living with his diagnosis was like walking through a mine field. An emergency would send us to the hospital at least once a week and it always seemed to come at the most inconvenient times when we least expected it. There were no monthly support groups. Facebook didn't exist. Cell phones didn't take pictures. And because hemophilia is a rare diagnosis, the best a mom like me could hope for was perhaps the phone number of some other mother around the state to call by phone to commiserate.
I needed HELP!
Yet, something quite the opposite happened. As I looked for support in Christian community, God distinctly told me, "YOU go serve. The Son of Man didn't come to be served, but to serve. YOU go do it." (See Mark 10:45)
What did I know? My beautiful boy was only 2 years old. I hadn't yet heard of a thing called an IEP or a 504. Who was I to support other parents?
But I DID know suffering. I knew it well. Financial devastation was no stranger to us. Marginalization and isolation broke our hearts. Lack of compassion and support from family and people who claimed to be friends were a familiar cross for us to bear.
So with nothing but ignorance, a heart for other suffering parents, and an obedient heart, I stepped forward in faith. Snappin' Ministries was born as I got over myself and focused on others. Strangely, it blessed me in ways I never could have imagined, giving me perspective and mutual support. In being poured out, I was filled.
Sadly, over the past 14 years I have had a hard time finding people who have a heart for moms and dads like us. Few dare to trust God enough to join Him where He's at work in the lives of parents raising a child with a disability. Churches blow me off and even push me out as they schedule over our groups or relocate us to the least usable space in a building. Christians are happy to pack up a bus or a plane for a hit-and-run missions trip out of town for a few days while they turn a blind eye to those suffering right in their midst.
In addition, there is great difficulty in getting parents to follow me as I follow Jesus. People would rather be a sponge than a pitcher. While their need to be filled up and given TLC is real, they too often stop short of passing those blessings down the line. A sense that the world owes them something too often takes precedence over the sort of self-denial Jesus seeks. In a consumer culture, people are quick to be served and slow to serve. Even in special needs ministry, leaders seem more concerned with self-promotion, getting the best speaking engagements, getting published, and not getting their hands dirty.
My heart is heavy with discouragement after these 14 years. I am crushed by my passion for fellow parents while so few help in the mission. Jesus has a knack for stepping into the broken places of life and creating beauty out of disappointed dreams. Yet, He blesses us to be a blessing, not to be holy hoarders. He wants us to live poured-out lives, not be mere sponges. Yes, we all have our times of difficulty in raising remarkable children, but that doesn't exempt us from service beyond child-rearing. And clearly, if we are not willing to invite other people living in the "typical" world into this sort of mission, they won't see the need to join us in the work.
As I agonized about this issue about a week ago, God brought Isaiah 59:16 before me as well as this verse from Isaiah, 63:5, reassuring me that He understands my dismay:
I looked, but there was no one to help,
I was appalled that no one gave support;
so my own arm achieved salvation for me,
and my own wrath sustained me.
There is someone out there besides your child who really needs you today. They need your life experience and to hear how you have walked with God through the hard times. Just a greeting card, or a phone call would change their day. Fighting to make your church more inclusive might open the doors to those who so desperately need to hear the Gospel of Hope. Starting a small group to mentor other struggling parents could just be the lifeline that they need. Inviting people not living with a child who has special needs can make a huge difference as well.
Will you be a pitcher or a sponge today?
PRAY: Jesus, just as you instructed I pray, Lord of the harvest, sent more workers. Remind us that You comfort us in our difficult times so that we can offer compassion to others just as You have offered to us.