The stuff had become a problem. Every time my son, Jon, and I headed out for an event, he gathered his stuff; an ever-growing collection of games and toys jammed into an ever-increasing sized tote bag. The time to purge had come.
But something interesting happened as we started our reduction plan. Jon’s anxiety increased when his stuff decreased. Jon was afraid to go anywhere without all his stuff. One afternoon, the core issue emerged. Jon was struggling to pick a few items to carry, and his tics were becoming pronounced. Suddenly, he looked up and said, “Mom, the kids won’t like me if I don’t have my stuff to show them.” Then he let out a huge sigh of relief. His authenticity broke my heart. Pushing back tears I asked, “Jon, do you think you have to have all your toys so kids will like you?” He slowly nodded his head yes.
We are all fragile. We fear rejection, whether we admit it or not. Think about how many of us show up at church with all our stuff—driving shiny cars, wearing stylish clothes, carrying expensive bags, keeping a firm grip on our kids so they don’t appear out of control. It’s our Christian version of show and tell. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with nice cars and cool clothes. I happen to love great style. However, there is something tragically wrong when we attach our worth as human beings to material things.
Most parents don’t have a child like Jon who believes his or her value resides in what he or she brings to show and tell. Because of Jon, I have had to ask some hard questions about genuine faith in daily life. It grieves me to know that church can be a place of grave pain for those with disabilities as well as for their caregivers. I don’t think anyone wakes up on Sunday morning wishing to inflict emotional or spiritual injury on those with disabilities, but it happens.
Below are some questions that I have had to wrestle with as a result of experiences with Jon. These questions are meaningless if we’re not willing to change. But if you have the courage to examine your heart, I cheer you on.
- If a hidden camera were placed in my home, would I fear that others would see my actions? If so, what behaviors do I need to address?
- Would I be uncomfortable driving to church in an old, beat-up car, wearing less than stylish clothing? If so, what drives that fear?
- If I were to let my Sunday school or small group know I am struggling, would they judge me? If not, why have I not been more forthcoming in telling them my struggles?
- Do different or disabled people make me uncomfortable? If so, why?
- Do I worry what others might think if my children were to misbehave at church? If so, am I more concerned with my kid’s behavior than with our worshiping the Lord?
These tough questions provide a glimpse of what it’s like to learn from my son who has no ability to pretend. The lessons I’ve gleaned from my child are utterly refreshing! I didn’t feel that way at first, but as Jon has taught me about authenticity, pretending to have it all together is a load I don’t ever want to carry again. If you want to know your true value in Christ, you must let go of your stuff.
Please feel free to respond. I’m confident you will find many of us share this same struggle.