The text read . . . “Hey, please give me a call back when you can. Love you!” My daughter isn’t a big texter. Something was up. I called immediately.
Her voice sounded fragile—not the typical healthy, “busy-about-life” one I’m used to. I listened as she began with a truth I’ve taught my kids over the years:
I’m not a mind reader, so if you need my help, you have to talk to me about it. I promise to listen, learn, and love no matter what.
Sometimes it’s been tough to keep this promise, but our children (whether tiny or adult) are free to be honest and open when they are given a safe place, knowing they won’t be condemned or immediately corrected.
In fact, the foundation of any healthy relationship is safety and trust; knowing that no matter what we share, we will still be loved, cared for, and safe—even if the topic is tough, disagreeable, or all knotted up.
My daughter and her husband had just visited. Some issues had surfaced that were confusing, frustrating, and difficult for them. She bravely shared more with me:
“Mom, I’m really concerned about Jon” [her younger brother with disabilities].
“What’s going on with . . . ?” and she listed the things that she couldn’t get her arms around. We grappled with her frustrations and challenges like:
- “Mom, what do I say when Jon says . . . ?”
- “How do you handle . . . ?”
- “It makes me scared to have kids. How do you handle . . . ?”
- “What happens when you and Dad aren’t around . . . ?”
- “Austin [Jon’s older brother] gets him so easily; I just can’t, and I’m sad about that . . .”
- “Mom, who will fill his loneliness and ease his confusion when you are gone?”
For more than an hour, my daughter grappled with the fact that her brother lives in a very different world than she does. The chasm at times appears too wide and too deep to cross.
Her questions were filled with longing, frustration, bewilderment, sorrow . . . a brokenness of sorts that I had never heard from her.
I followed up with a text to her this morning. It said:
Hi sweetie, I want you to know how proud of you I am. By calling and opening up about your feelings, struggles, and pain, you also opened your heart to deal truthfully with our family’s hard realities. None of us are good at everything; we all struggle in areas we don’t want to look at. Even more, in some areas, we often push way down or deny.
One of my favorite writers has a book titled Daring Greatly. I would say you “dared” to live wholeheartedly—fully—by choosing to open up about Jon, about how his life affects you and our family. It is so freeing to do this—to accept your whole self, which requires first and foremost accepting ourselves as we are and acknowledging where we want to be. It’s taking full responsibility for one’s life.
When we are wrapped up in shame, self-loathing, and fear, we are too self-focused and concerned about hiding what we don’t like in ourselves. But so many people spend so much energy hiding behind money, power, praise, and more; they can’t ever know their true value.
Over the last ten years, the armored cloak of protecting your heart has slowly fallen away. Your hubby’s love for you, Toban’s love for you [her stepdad, my husband], Bubba and Nana’s love for you, and my love for you has filled in the space that was wounded and ashamed, giving you the internal fortitude to walk into hard things with hope and confidence that you won’t be rejected.
If anything, this level of honesty is the making of you—authentically showing up and saying “Hey, I’m strong here, I’m okay there, and I have weaknesses here that I need to grow in and find support to do so.”
I don’t know how Jon’s life will unfold. I do know we can pray for God’s direction and wisdom to help us learn. And we keep being open to the struggles. It’s also helpful to remember we are one accident or fall away from Jon’s condition. We can join the ranks of the disabled at any moment. Every day, we should be grateful for the abilities we do have.
There aren’t any shortcuts in life, but we do life together—facing it as a whole as it comes. Ashley, you have a huge heart—one that is so tender, so brave, so willing to step into whatever comes—fearful or not. Thanks for being honest. I’m so proud of you!
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
The reality is we are all different. It’s easy to read that, but until you step out into discomfort with others, you aren’t really living it.
- Do you run from the disabled because you don’t know what to do or say?
- Do you wish you were smarter, prettier, brighter, more of whatever you think you aren’t?
I don’t recall any exemption to Jesus’ command . . . “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
He didn’t say “love your neighbor if they are . . .
- Easy to get along with
Or whatever you think makes people valuable.” He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Let Me Hear from You
Have you honestly stepped into another’s life, regardless of the differences presented?
If not, will you give it a shot? How can I help you dare greatly and love authentically?
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