Nathan is home for acouple of weeks and we are trying to make memories, have fun, and be friends. He is on the move again and so I am cherishing the time we have. But, I am also reminded that his issues and the way it effects our family and his life will always be here.
Both of us have received hundreds of emails, texts, letters and comments from so many of you since we first published our book, Different, less than a year ago. Those of us who deal with the daily issues of challenging circumstances in our home just need to know others understand and that there is hope for our story to end well. Though our story is not over yet, it will pretty well developed and we see God's grace and fingerprints all over our lives--and we are best friends.
I thought it would be great to do a little podcast of together sharing some of our most recent thoughts about living with an outside the box story. Hope you enjoy it. I am also including a short part of one of our stories in the book.
Finally, we are pondering publishing a beautiful new picture book for children about all of us being different. If you would enjoy such a book, please leave a comment below. It is our hope that our story will be of encouragement to you.
As I prayed for Nathan and pondered him over the early years of his life, I gradually began to understand more fully that he was not a problem to be addressed, not the sum of his behavioral performance. His worth to God was not about his ability to fulfill other people’s expectations or act according to accepted norms. Instead he was a beloved child of the Father with a specific role to play in God’s ongoing story of redemption.
Again, this was a lesson long in coming. It hurt my feelings when people made no effort to understand what we were going through. I often felt humbled, discouraged, angry, lonely, and so very tired of dealing with these issues day in and day out, especially with three other children who needed me and other responsibilities mounting in my life. Daily I sought for wisdom, understanding, and insight into what would make our lives a bit easier and help all my children grow into their potential. And gradually I began to focus on two scriptural principles that helped me immensely.
Because of my many years in ministry, I had studied and written a lot about Jesus’ relationship with His disciples. And I had noticed that one of the Master’s relational strengths was His constantly speaking positive things into the lives of His followers:
“Peter, you are the rock” (see Matthew 16:18). (The one who cut off the ear of a soldier, who called Jesus down for saying he would die, who denied Jesus was still the rock Jesus used as the one who would lead the disciples.)
“Mary, you chose the good part” and (later)
“Mary, your story will be told through generations because you have done this beautiful thing for Me” (see Luke 10:42 and Matthew 26:6-13). (He did not criticize her for not working enough to help with Martha.)
“Centurion, I have never seen greater faith in all of Israel” (see Matthew 8:10). (He did not comment on the fact that he was not a faithful Jewish man.)
“Nathanael, you are a man in whom there is no deceit” (see John 1:47). (He was the one who doubted Jesus' resurrection until he could see him face to face--and yet he was a chosen disciple.)
That was one principle. The other emerged as I studied God’s priority for His children throughout Scripture. I noticed a consistent theme: the importance of the heart.
“People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT).
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Matthew 22:37).
“The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
There are many, many verses like these throughout the Old and New Testaments. In fact, the heart is mentioned as a priority to God more than eight hundred times in Scripture. The overall implication is that God values the inner person—will, imagination, values, purpose, attitude—more than behavior or even beliefs.
That’s not to say behavior and beliefs are unimportant. They are. But God seems to care most about who we are on the inside. He looks for a heart that is devoted to trusting Him and then strongly supports this person’s life, work, and relationships, accomplishing far beyond what that person could do naturally.
Those two scriptural principles—speaking positive words into a life and focusing on heart issues—became my essential strategy for raising Nathan. We prayed regularly that God would help us figure out how to reach Nathan’s heart with a vision for how God might use him. We wanted to build a world in Nathan’s mind where he was not always the odd man out, the kid who could not perform to the expectations of others. He needed a sense of himself that was not based on math scores or behaving correctly inside four walls, but on integrity, moral character, and courageous action. He needed to find a way to be fully himself and yet be strong in ways that God would use.
This kind of affirmation is important for all children, of course, but it's especially crucial for the Nathans of the world, who tend to push buttons and provoke negative feedback from others and who can easily lose heart as a result.
A constant feeling of just not measuring up can build a lifelong legacy of insecurity and even despair. Feeling like a disappointment on a regular basis can actually shape the brain patterns of a growing child. Failure and helplessness can become self-fulfilling prophecies.
So how can the parents of a different child counter that tendency while still giving the child necessary guidance? Partly by choosing our battles, as I have already mentioned. (Not everything is worth a confrontation or even a correction.) But also by deliberately speaking forward, by faith, into the heart of the child.
Be sure to listen to the podcast today.
Be sure to leave a comment below if you would like to have a "Different" picture book for your family. :)