It’s true. Misery loves company. And probably the reason one of my favorite shows is The Middle, a sitcom about the misadventures of a mid-western family not very unlike my own. Duct-taped appliances? Special needs teens and a seat-of-the-pants mother? Check.
It’s a show that makes me laugh because the Hecks (or rather their script writers) “get it”. Life is a daily walk into the precarious unknown in which we are armed with little more than our wits, endless Google searches and lots of prayer, in part because we have three kids (special needs and otherwise) gifted with the super-human strength to take our emotions and our self-doubt from 0-to-60 in under 3 seconds, sometimes multiple times a day.
But for families like ours, where holidays seldom reflect the Hallmark-sugared images of greeting cards, or fulfill commercial-ad promises of credit card happiness wrapped in a bow, it’s good to be reminded that we are not unusual. We are not alone. There are no picture-perfect lives.
When sensory overload dictates when family Christmas visits are over, or we explain for the umpteenth time our family’s differences for the benefit of those who don’t understand, or well-laid plans take a sudden turn because of anxiety, PTSD or one of my children decides to share a litter box with my friend’s cat, it’s okay.
Christmas has never been about experiencing a Hallmark life. It’s about experiencing a real life with the One who, wrapped in flesh and blood, finally enabled us to really know him, both in this life and the one to come. It is a lesson I wish I’d been as quick as Philip to realize.
The last night Jesus was with his disciples, Philip, fearful of the future Jesus had just described to them, asked him, “Lord show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” (John 14:8). Betrayal was at the door, their plans lay in ruins, and afraid of the unknown, Philip reached out for the only one he knew could sustain them; he asked to see the Father.
With a tender voice, Jesus consoled him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” (John 14:9, my emphasis). Like Philip, I have looked at Jesus in plain site each Christmas and missed the point.
The beauty of the Incarnation does not begin and end with a baby in a manger, it continues in the life Jesus lived for 33 years among us in plain site, to let us see God in all his fullness.
And what do we see of the Father’s heart in Jesus’ life? One who delights to turn water into celebratory wine for the sake of a wedding party (and to humor his mother who thought she knew best). One who is patient with our childish insecurity when we ask, “Who is the greatest?” One who encourages us to step onto the water, and holds out his hand if we sink. One who is passionate, strong and unafraid to challenge those who use God for their own gain and at the expense of others. One who is humble and does not need the praise of men when he heals a child in secret. One who shares in our grief when we lose those we love. One who champions failures and lifts up from the dust those that others so easily condemn. And One who rescues us, we who would be eternally lost without him, taking our punishment, undeservedly upon himself.
Life is never a Hallmark card. TV sitcoms know it. And my family knows it. But this Christmas, we celebrate the one thing that makes a difference. Like Philip, we have seen the Father as he really is, and his name is Jesus, Emmanuel. God is truly with us.
Kelli Ra Anderson, author Divine Duct Tape and soon to be released, Life on the Spectrum
Latest posts by Kelli Ra Anderson (see all)
- Calming our Anxiety in Special Needs Parenting - August 24, 2015
- Victory in the Seeming Loss of Special Needs Advocacy - June 22, 2015
- Retreating in God’s Hands: respite for the special needs parent - May 25, 2015