Our journey with Obie hasn’t just been one traveled at home or school. Our journey has been in every facet of life- from swim lessons to larger family gatherings and from play dates to church groups- we have had to learn to adapt, educate, or avoid in order to keep this train moving.
For a reason I’m still working to understand, church and church-like formats have been especially challenging for us.
It started innocently enough, but slowly, covertly, and like a chipping away of what I was sure was right, I began to aquiesce. To appease. To avoid.
Sundays were a mixed bag of relief for an hour of spiritual respite and tension because my four year old was being dropped off in a room with younger kids.
Wednesdays were met with the same tension: my four year old was in the same room as his two year old sister.
Both church and study were designed and operated on shoestring budgets with a volunteer force. I felt guilty for burdening the system. I felt guilty for making their jobs harder. I felt guilty that I NEEDED the break.
Things changed at the end of spring. Suddenly, sweet-natured, happy to play, easy going Obie wasn’t. He just wasn’t. “He can’t stay.” My spiritual respite turned to spiritual unrest. I had had plenty of instances where I went to service in tears, went to discussion group distracted, went home distraught. But this was the first time that I truly wondered if it was time to find a place who “got it.” Who accepted Obie, warts and all, and didn’t aim to lessen his impact on others, but rather aimed to feed him as a child of God.
Fast forward to a few months ago and I ran across a blog that contended that if your church didn’t accept you and your special needs child, to hightail it to the next place that did.
I understand the spirit of pain, rejection, exhaustion and frustration in which it is written. I understand the confusion of having to fight in an area of life that should be soaked in love, compassion, and grace. I get it. I’ve lived it for two years in two different places with people who love Jesus. They do.
But here’s where I have to push back. What about the next family? Do you leave the fight, the frustration, the cruel realities of a system designed for Neuro-typical to them?
When we treat churches and leadership like they are there to serve us, educate us, nurture us, and it’s all about us, we fail in our essential call to use ALL our mess for His glory. Our circumstances can build character that points people to Him. We fail to understand that churches aren’t designed to be about us.
So push, friends. Don’t “yelp” your way to a better church. Serve your church. Educate them on how to approach special needs families. Help them understand what is helpful and what is hurtful. Because you are there for a reason. You are serving a purpose. It might be uncomfortable, it might be tough. There might be instances that throwing your hands in the air and cutting your losses seems just so much easier. I get it. I promise I have been there. But if you press into your call to be a parent to that special kiddo, press into your identity as a child of God, and press into his promises, instead of advising families to split at first sign of resistance you can sing his praises and watch his glory shine when God shows up in ways that only God can.
The short story: God showed up. He continues to show up. When we leave our church it will be with the assurance that we served a purpose far greater.
Great article to encourage churches and families: linked here