It's Sucker Punch Season for Special Needs Families
Graduation and Awards Ceremonies = Right Hook.
Yearbook Signings = Left Jab.
Prom Pictures = Uppercut.
Sucker punches are moments we think we are fine, but BAM out of nowhere something hits a tender place we did not know existed.
I hate the sucker punch.
There is no time to prepare for impact.
It hurts like hell.
I took a sucker punch at church.
The congregation was celebrating 8th-grade students moving into high school who had completed confirmation classes. It was a time for students to declare their faith after weeks of soul diving into what they believed to be true about Jesus.
I was in the back of the room with my special needs daughter who is the same age as the dozens of teenagers filling the stage. Out of nowhere...
I was completely unprepared for the sadness that washed over me in what was a moment of celebration for the rest of the church. I was washed with a yearning for my daughter to be on stage with her peers. I was washed with the feeling of loss wondering if she was able to comprehend the love of Christ like the students on stage.
I grew bitter.
Despite beautiful declarations of faith from the 8th graders on stage and even a baptism...!! a baptism !!...my heart was hardened and unwilling to celebrate.
Reading this, you are probably responding in one of two ways. You are responding with grace because you have experienced the sucker punch. You know it’s called a sucker punch because it comes in settings these feelings should not exist such as a wedding or family outing (or a !baptism!).
There is also a segment reading right now who want to fill me with truth. Truth why hurting from this sucker punch doesn’t make sense or even some judgment about the ugly state of my heart.
God agrees with both of you.
His truth and grace came swiftly.
He started with truth found in Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Okay. Fine. I’ll try.
The pastor began to teach. He began to teach on the damage a hard heart can do to us and those around us.
So does that mean wallowing in jealousy does no good and even has potential to harden my heart to the point of doing harm?
My hard heart had potential to harm relationships. My hard heart had potential to keep our family isolated. My hard heart had potential to harm my capacity for peace and joy.
On both sides of Philippians 4:8 is the promise of peace when we sit in thanksgiving. A peace so overwhelming it will guard our heart (v7).
God gave me a hefty dose of truth and now wanted to extend grace. The pastor's message continued with a reminder we are all invited to change our hearts and move toward Him (repent). The feeling of isolation does not exist at His table.
He is there yearning for us to experience the peace that comes when we soften our hearts toward not only our own milestones and celebrations but those of others. There is a joy for us in those places.
We can’t stop the sucker punches.
We can’t even duck fast enough to avoid their sting. There will be more and they will hurt.
What we can do is get an ice pack on the wound as quickly as possible that looks like Philippians 4:6-9. What we can do is be mindful who is throwing the punch. It is not our school, our friends, our church, or anything of this world. It is a punch from an enemy who wants our hearts to remain hard and far from God’s joy, peace and freedom.
Let’s not allow our hearts to harden during this season of worldly milestones and celebrations for our friends.
Rather, allow Him to tenderize and speak the truth of how He delights in our family and our many milestones that may go unnoticed by the world.
You are invited to do the same.