Are you a person of “means?” Do you have plenty of funds in your bank account, a lovely home, fancy car? Do you own all of life’s little conveniences, electronic toys and expensive things? Truthfully, I am not a person of means. I do not own many of the things I have just mentioned. I do not have a bank account overflowing with resources. That does not mean I don’t have a good life and live well, as my family is very comfortable in our middle class identity. We have a sweet home in a wonderful suburb north of Chicago, own two great cars that work fine, and have a house full of things that we like. However, many of our things have a certain lived-in quality to them, from the couch that our dog loves to jump and sleep on, the rug that has a slight depression from our special needs son playing on one spot too much, and various dings in the walls. Many of these are things that all families can relate to, whether you have a special needs child or not. Howeverm there are some items we have that carry a certain affection for me. One of these is the living room table.
The table I speak of is large chest-style item that serves the dual purpose of being a functional table and a storage space for some of my son’s toys. It came from a certain retail chain that has products from a variety of cultures around the world, so it has a unique flavor. The table is actually wrapped in bamboo cord, which has been glued or tacked onto it in an eye-catching decorative pattern. As it turns out, the bamboo cord fairly easily comes undone. Several times my wife or I walked in our son pulling on the cord, causing it to break off and leave a long curled piece laying on the floor. Being the hyper-focused individual that I am when it comes to flaws in or damage to our furniture, I quickly get super glue or silicone to tack the cord back down, placing a variety of books on top to keep it in place.
However, the most recent time I glued the bamboo cord was different. My wife—who is hypersensitive to my hypersensitivity over such things—came up to me as I began to obsess, and attempted a needed intervention.
She instantly recognized the state I was in and tried to stop me, asking me repeatedly to, “Step away from The Table,” and “Take a break and a breath,” and “Just leave it alone.” I communicated in my increasingly-frustrated tone, “No, I’m just going to finish it,” and “I’m fine, leave me alone,” and “Just get away from me.” She upped our conversation by saying in the most non-confrontational way possible, “Why don’t you go read your Bible and get grounded?”
Of course, that just sent me into orbit; how could she say that? I’m trying to take care of The Table that we all use and need, and she wants me to go read the Bible? No ma’am, there’s no way I’m doing that!
My wife, of course, won the battle. I went to take a break, begrudgingly taking out my Bible, half-reading it while I continued to breathe heavily. I can’t recall what I read, but I do know what I started to think: what’s wrong with me? I’m flying off the handle at my beautiful child over behavior he can’t really control, and all over a not-so-great table? Where was my patience, my sense of forgiveness, my love for my family? It had all dissipated in a fraction of a second because a piece of twine came undone—and made me be undone.
I immediately went to the words of Jesus, when He reminded us not to “store up treasures on earth,” but rather focus on Heaven, and the glory that awaited us in the afterlife. Did I really believe those words? Or was it just too easy to forget those words when I faced the threat of a material loss, and allowed myself to become someone else? What do I really value and treasure in this life—or the next, for that matter—and how was I being an example for my family right then?
I went to my wife after a bit and asked her forgiveness, and then to my son, to whom the anger was indirectly focused. I talked about how I had to remember who I was, and it certainly wasn’t a guy worried about some table, regardless of how nice or not nice it was. I also admitted that my reaction was probably the result of other stress I’ve been carrying, something parents like us can too-easily experience. In that moment, I needed to remember that my son wasn’t the enemy, neither was my wife, not even the table itself, but rather my own selfishness.
The next morning, I was up early for work and spent a few minutes for some much-needed Bible time. When I sat down to open my Bible, I stopped to look at the cover. It used to be nice brown bound leather; now it is sufficiently scratched-up, by none other than my son, who enjoys digging his nails into a variety of things to satisfy his sensory needs.
As I sat with my feelings about the previous day, while looking at another item that was no longer perfect, I heard the voice of Spirit whisper in my ear, “Do you care more about the outside of that book, or what’s on the inside?” The message was clear: let go of your control over your material identity. Value those things—no, value those people who are truly important to you, and build yourself a scratch-free treasure in Heaven.
Connect with John on his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/johnsspecialneedsblog/