In our appearance-and-achievement focused world, it’s easy to feel less than. Insufficient. Unvalued. Unimportant. For moms, there’s often the added pressure to raise impeccable, pleasant, and well-behaved high achievers. Scratch that; that’s no longer good enough. Today’s children must be over-achievers (and as a result, over-stressed!), those who can juggle five hundred activities while learning three languages and standing on their head. Obviously I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek here, and yet, how often do societal expectations feel equally unreachable?
My guest today, Elizabeth Griffin, a sweet Christian woman with a precious son, shares how her struggle to measure up transformed into the ability to rest, and enjoy, and what God showed her through that.
Acceptable to the One Who Matters Most
By Elizabeth Griffin
“Can I wipe that black bean off your bottom lip?”
My wet thumb reaches out and gets in one good smear before Zack pulls away with a grunt. The action has only served to make the remains of his breakfast more evident, and I spend the following 10 minutes calculating my next move. But my 21-year-old son keeps his distance and refuses to let me make him presentable before he lumbers onto the bus that takes him to his school-to-work transition program.
How much of our time as mothers is spent trying to make our children presentable to the world? If we see their acceptability as a symbol of our value, we can become obsessed with it.
One of the most important lessons the Lord teaches me through our second son is how much He values every person, and that the most valuable things in His creation are often the ones this world has no inclination to deem as worthy.
Zack’s older brother Taylor fits the world’s definition of acceptable. At least he did before he decided to go into full-time Christian ministry! Prior to that, society had great plans for him—he has the chops to become a professional jazz pianist, the interpersonal skills to become a highly effective psychologist, and the brains to become a college professor. But he gave all of that up to serve Christ. And the job doesn’t come with a paycheck—he and his wife must raise their own support.
Try explaining that to non-believing grandparents.
My oldest is not the only person many misunderstand. Zack has fragile X syndrome and autism. That double-whammy means he operates at about a four-year-old level, has very little speech, and may never be able to complete a four-hour shift of manual labor. He’s healthy, kind, and has a great sense of humor. His spirit is incredibly tender, and he’s one of the most loving people I’ve known.
But in the world’s eyes, being dependent on others as an adult means you’re a drain on society. Those who view Zack through a utilitarian lens feel sorry for us. They don’t think it’s fair that we have to take care of our adult child. Some have voiced this opinion with firmness and authority—even family members.
That does nothing but hurt.
It’s not possible to explain the moments of my life that have been filled with Zack-love and how wonderful and healing and fun they are. Sure, I’ve had to clean up more messes than I did with Taylor, I’ve grieved over my son’s lack of ability and interaction between us that never existed, and I’ve spent many evenings feeling trapped with a forever-toddler.
But I also have someone in my life who comes running out of the house to greet me with a grin-to-melt-all-hearts every time I come home. I share a million inside jokes that require no words with an adult child who always thinks I’m funny. And I’m given daily affection from the sweetest of man-boys.
I stopped stressing about making Zack presentable to the world a long time ago when none of my attempts, or the work of many therapists and teachers, could do it. And that’s all right, because He’s more than acceptable to the One who created him. He is “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
He’s exactly how God intended him to be. I may not always understand that, but I know it’s true in the deepest of my deep places.
And what about me? Aren’t there some remains of black beans visible on my face from time to time? As much as I try to cover them up, aren’t there things about me that appear glaringly unacceptable? And yet, just like Zack, I am dearly loved by my Creator. I am His child, regardless of my ability or lack thereof. I have been made acceptable through the blood of Jesus. And one day, both Zack and I will be made more than presentable—we will be made perfect.
We live in a quick-to-judge society, one where individuals are often evaluated by snapshots of externals. For example, when we see a child with a messy face or hair, or perhaps throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, it’s easy to form opinions of child and parent. But as Elizabeth’s example of the bean dip shows, we’re only seeing a blip in time, and one with absolutely zero context. Because of this, our quick assumptions are almost guaranteed to be incorrect. The result–parents who feel constantly judged and like they have to meet a set of obscure and subjective standards. If you’re a parent, you probably know exactly what I mean. But we don’t have to give others power over our emotions or self-assessment. In fact, we shouldn’t. As Elizabeth points out, we should sift everything through the opinion of the One who matters most.
We all have a tendency to allow cultural standards and the opinions of others hinder our freedom and joy. But in Christ, we have the power to rise above and to embrace, fully, who God created us to be. Join me and my ministry team for our next Wholly Loved Conference to learn how to live fully loved and grab hold of the freedom that accompanies that. You can find out more HERE.
Did anything in Elizabeth’s post resonate with you or perhaps change your perspective (of your situation or someone else’s)? In what ways have you been evaluating yourself by the wrong standards, and what can you do today to shift your thinking? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Facebook, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!
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