Written by Steven Liechty
Blessed but Disappointed
I am the parent of a child with a disability. Recently you answered a letter from another parent of a child with a disability, who talked about how they felt like they’d been slapped in the face when people said to her that they were "blessed" to have a healthy child. I was disappointed in your answer, which was a devotional about the difference between "lucky" and "blessed." Can you offer parents like me something more?
Blessed but Disappointed
Dear Blessed but Disappointed,
You are right. You—and any parent struggling with the social injustices society shows people with disabilities and their families—need and deserve a pastoral, caring voice—and assistance. Each of us responds to our disabilities, and the disabilities of those we care for, in our own way, and differently in different seasons. But it is still true that parents of a child with a disability in particular are in need of a lifeline to the hand of God. You need to hear, in the words of our tradition from Luke 14, that ALL are invited to be at Jesus' table--and all have equal value. Some people are not "more blessed" than others. That is part of the Good News Jesus brings to us.
In the United Church of Christ, we are fortunate and blessed to have an excellent Disabilities Ministry (UCCDM). Its members can provide caring and support, and a wealth of wisdom, experience, and expertise. They welcome contact from parents who need emotional support, or have questions and concerns around raising a child with a disability. I encourage you to contact them for additional assistance through their website: www.uccdm.org
You might also find help in a new book by Kathleen Deyer Bolduc: "The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities." Bolduc's book addresses the issues of parents' feeling of brokenness, their grieving, the social alienation, the heartbreak of watching their child being treated as different. But it also guides parents on how to deal with these feelings and offers ways to find God in the fray for themselves and their children.
Finally, Blessed but Disappointed, I hope you are able to find a caring community at church—if you attend one—and that you are always in touch with the love, comfort, and healing God offers us.
Bless you and may you be a blessing,
P.S. You may also want to take a minute to read this Lenten devotional from the UCC Disabilities Ministry’s website. It is written by a self-described "parent of two great kids, one who happens to have an intellectual disability named and labeled as an Autism Spectrum Disorder." He includes in his heartfelt reflection these words: "In those moments when we feel like we are alone, or on the outside looking in; when we are praying for the hurtful attitudes of the world to change…God understands, Christ ‘gets’ it, and the Holy Spirit calls us into a community of care and support, while comforting and advocating for us. How about that, God doesn’t give sufferings or disabilities or mental illness, rather, our Still Speaking God shares in those journeys."
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