Show and Tell

Show and TellThe 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.

  1. 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?
  2. Would I be uncomfortable driving to church in an old, beat-up car, wearing less than stylish clothing? If so, what drives that fear?
  3. 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?
  4. Do different or disabled people make me uncomfortable? If so, why?
  5. 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.

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10 thoughts on “Show and Tell

  1. Colleen…I NEEDED to hear this post. My son, Andrew is a lot like Jon in that way…I guess I was just too close to see the possible reasoning behind Andrew’s desire to bring lots of stuff with him. Thank you for this eye opener!!! ~ Kellie

  2. I find the honesty of our children very cleansing. We need to learn from them. I think we all struggle from time to time with wanting “our stuff” whatever it may be..around us to help us feel complete. I love how you are growing spiritually by the circumstances of your life.

  3. Cindi, you are welcome, friend. I have plenty of my own as well…the things we learn from our boys continues to change our lives. Like you said in the interview, if you could change Joey now, there’s no way…same for me and these kinds of things are the reasons why. Much love to you friend, Colleen

  4. Kellie, I think raising our kids is a group effort! We need each other, we need wisdom from Christ, stories from others, and mentors who have walked in similar paths which encourage us to keep at it. I am honored to know you found this post enlightening…learning from Jon continues to be an ‘awakening’ in so many ways. Hope you have a good day and bless you for being such a fantastic mom. Colleen

  5. Sandra, it’s been several years now that we have known one another…I can see incredible growth in you as well. You have been an inspiration to me, and to so many others who have come to know you. Thank you for your words of encouragement; life can be so difficult at times it is comforting to know Christ shines through all the brighter! Your words reminded me of one of my favorite passages in II Cor. 1: 1-11….part of our life challenges are purposed for us to be comforted then pass that to those in need of such comfort. Thank you again for your dedicated friendship. Colleen

  6. Fancy Dress…first off, I love your screen name! And yes, there is so much to be learned from children. One of my favorite books was by Robert Fulgrum titled “Everything I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten…his list on taking a nap every day and being kind and more…Also, thank you for reminding me to look into my kids’ faces every day and see life and light in them. I need to be reminded of that often…thanks so much. Colleen

  7. Again, all I can say is wow. You are so gifted in “telling it like it is”. It’s interesting because I see how God is bringing you thru each day. The story of JOn and his :”stuff” broke my heart. It’s so painful to see your child rejected, isn’t it? I am driven to tears whenever I think of how alone Ben is. He has me; no he has God. No, God has him…there’s the HOly Spirit again getting just the right words out. I want to encourage you to continue writing. I see God’s annointing on you, dear. May God continue to bless you. Love, Diana

    • My new friend Diana,
      I’m so delighted to read your words once again. I wish I knew you and Ben…your story, your heart and how it has been softened or made secure by Christ in all you have suffered. I am so very sorry to know of Ben’s loneliness; a gnawing, quiet pain most parents endure. I have never met a parent who escaped the inner wrestling that accompanies loneliness. Sometimes I wonder what he is thinking when quiet or looking to the distance; how often I have assumed his thoughts were/are full of sorrow or pain. But of late, I’ve asked myself why I think on the negative when it may actually be a treasured silence because God is moving in his heart and mind. We will never know until eternity; I pray it is the latter. Your words…”God has him” is a truth I run to every day; otherwise I depend on my limited ability rather than God’s sovereignty. Really, it pushes us towards surrendering…towards letting go and trusting our Lord for his whole life. God has them! Diana, God has Ben and He has YOU as well. This past year I have reflected on the experience of God sending His son into our awful world… watched him suffer-to the point of death. God still had Him. What a comforting reminder that is! Thank you once again for your kind words and encouragement. You have reminded me once again that life is about trusting and releasing our lives to Jesus because He has all of us. YES! Let’s celebrate! In his bountiful mercy, Colleen