Some of the very best stories of my life have been the Nathan stories. My sweet little boy who towers over me now was the source of so much angst and joy all at the same time! I learned so much about the love of my own heavenly Father as I walked as a mama to Nathan. When we wrote Different together, it helped me know both of them even better.
Many people have said to me, "I have a Nathan, too!" I think they usually mean they have a child who always makes them push a little harder than they ever expected as a parent! Some children are just naturally more gregarious and loud, or perhaps extremely timid and afraid. Some have truly diagnosis-worthy differences.
But we've come to realize over the years that all of us are different, in some way.
And of course, because of our own personality, our children can drive us crazy if they are very different than us--or at least push our buttons on a regular basis! Some of these differences are personality driven and sometimes they are issue driven. But what I learned with Nathan is that some of his differences actually were a reflection of the role God had called him to in his life. He is a debater, cares about truth, is unabashedly bold in helping others, sharing his life and goods with down and out people. As an immature little boy, his arguing felt like disrespect when I learned to understand it was a little boy learning to argue for justice, righteousness. So, of course, I wish I had understood more about his heart and not judged him through so many little boy days.
Nathan writes ...
"I’ve always known I was different. It wasn’t something I chose or an identity I one day decided to wear. Being different is woven into the very fabric of who I am. Part of it comes from the various 'disorders' that have challenged me and my family, and part of it simply comes from the outside-the-box personality God decided to give me.
Being different has made itself evident in every corner of my life, peeking out and reminding me whenever I start to think I might be normal.
I know I’m different because when other children were content with walking on the sidewalk, I felt the need to climb the rails. Because when others’ questions would stop, mine seemed to go on without end, often frustrating those who ran out of answers.
I know I’m different because when I was fifteen I began taking six showers a day and washing my hands until they bled.
I know I’m different because my mind seems to change channels at will, making it nearly impossible to focus on any one thing for more than a few minutes.
I know I’m different because no matter how hard I looked at the math problem or how many times my tutor explained it, my mind simply couldn’t grasp the simple numerical basics that seemed to come so easy to my friends and siblings.
I know I’m different because while I long for affection, I am often scared to touch the ones I love for fear of contaminating them.
I know I’m different because even now as a twenty-seven- year-old adult, there are times when the weight of the world seems so heavy I don’t feel able to leave my apartment.
I know I’m different because I’ve been told so by every important person in my life."
There are an infinite number of ways to be different and to feel like one doesn’t fit in. The difference can be personality driven. It can involve physiological issues, mental illness, or emotional issues, and can be shaped by experience. (Nathan’s case, it turned out, did involve several clinical disorders as well as a number of personality quirks that set him apart from the crowd.)
In writing the book, I realized that I had felt different my whole life--
I am passionate, outspoken, engaged in ways that most of my friends and acquaintances are not. But what if God made me this way because he had shaped me for the very ministry I have been in for most of my adult life? What if my differences equipped me to speak to thousands and to be driven to write messages? All of us have a story to tell, a place to be faithful that will fit in with our own design.
And feeling different—being different—is something our culture, especially our Christian culture, does not talk about much. People often turn their heads away from people and situations they don’t understand and pretend they do not exist. And the words “mental illness” can make them positively squirm.
But the truth is, all of us are a little bit quirky in some way or another.
All of us have Achilles’ heels, uniquely vulnerable areas of our bodies, minds, and personalities. And some of us, to be honest, are a little quirkier than others—which is why we struggle so much and why other people—especially parents, teachers, and authority figures—have a hard time dealing with us. We are not convenient to their expectations of how life ought to play itself out.
But these personality differences, these outside-the-box preferences and approaches to life, don’t have to be liabilities. Or they don’t have to be only liabilities. They can actually be a gift to us and to others who are willing to look at life through our unique lenses.
Nathan and I are overwhelmed by the many letters we receive every day from people all over the world who love this book, for all their children--the way it encourages all of us to find the foundation of love and acceptance from which to influence our children. We are so very grateful for your letters and pray God will encourage all of you every day.
How are you or your children different? Have you learned--or are you, like me, still learning?!--to accept and see those differences as blessings?
We hope our book, Different, can be a blessing to moms and children of all ages and stages of life. Find it here ...