There is no way around it, really.
Our kids stick out in their adopted country.
They stick out because of their Caucasian-skin color.
They stick out because of their accent.
They stick out because they are tall…all three boys have been long and lean since birth!
They stick out because they’re different. They talk different. They look different. They act different.
They stick out because they are world travelers and have experienced things that many only dream about.
Jake and Caleb stick out because of their unique perspective on life and how they choose to make sense of it as a result of being on the autism spectrum.
Micah sticks out because he believes everyone should be kind and respectful to others, being as generous and inclusive as possible.
They stick out because each boy has accepted Christ and is living out his life in honor of that relationship the best he can according to their level of emotional and spiritual maturity.
So, why are we surprised, hurt, or even offended when something difficult rises up against our sons because they stick out for one reason for another here?
Every one of our kids has experienced the destabilization of a cruel word or unkind action at some point in their lives. The sting of an insult, the blow of a bully, the pressure of a push, the jeers of a scoffer, the terror of an intimidator, the frustration of misunderstanding, and feelings of insecurity have all rocked our boys. We’ve dealt with such things many different times over the past eight and a half years since moving to South Africa. Such offenses penetrate our sons’ sensitive hearts and make all of our boys wonder at times, “Why me? What did I ever do to them? What’s the point of all this?”
One of our sons recently experienced another inflicting blow. The pain of the situation cut deep and pierced his heart. As I read my Bible this morning and prayed about all of the different things John and I talked about with our kid, my God led me to these words of Christ:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 11-16 NIV
Could it be that our kids are fair game for some level of persecution as a result of being who they are in Christ?
Could it be that our kids have the potential to influence their environment and make a difference even as they feel the harsh, insensitive, and painful blows of a dark world in need of the light of Christ?
Could it be that the challenges they are experiencing now — have the potential to positively impact their future and those in their sphere of influence one day?
Could it be that the light of Christ shines in our sons even today at their ages of 14, 12, and 11 years? Even when things are hard, even when mistakes are made, even when we don’t want to care anymore, even when we don’t understand why…could it all be used in some good way by our God and bring glory to Him in heaven?
What amazing, mind-boggling, faith-stretching thoughts!
Granted, hard times happen in all corners of the world to all types of people and to all types of kids. I am certain that we would have experienced tough times and bullying in the States had we remained there instead of choosing the missional life in southern Africa. What I don’t know is if our boys would have stuck out in their home culture as much as they are doing in their adopted one.
The deal is, though, as followers of Christ we are not only supposed to stick out…we are given the supernatural, divine ability to shine! People should take notice of the difference in us. They should see the Light.
As the mother of these three special kids, I can assure you of one thing. These boys shine bright! In their unique, God-given way, Micah, Jake and Caleb radiate the love of Christ and offer encouragement and grace to our family and to others over and over and over again. Are they perfect? No. Do they make mistakes? Of course. Are they frustrated and resentful when others hurt them? Yes. Do they want to strike back? Sometimes.
What John and I try to instill in our sons is that every one who chooses to tear down, whatever the reason, needs to be lifted up. It is because of their insecurities, loss, failures, challenges, and perhaps destructive personalities; that they may strike out to feel better about themselves and their lives.
There is something to seek and emulate in Micah, Jake, and Caleb. Even with their various challenges, our kids are loved and grounded in that love. Everyone wants that.
Our kids stick out; not just because of their skin color, their height, their accent, or their behaviors. They stick out because they are supposed to. We all are. We not only stick out, we also have the ability to shine with a bright, beautiful, and inclusive love of Christ. A hurting, angry, bitter, and resentful world needs to be lifted up from their pits of discouragement to experience such love and grace for themselves.
So, when our boys are hurt by others, it’s their opportunity to forgive and bless instead. This is the hope we are instilling in our sons…even when they are offended and grieved by the lack of consideration of others. Such action requires emotional and spiritual maturity…and this kind of maturity only comes through experience and practice. Oh joy!
I guess you might say then, that our sons’ lives on the mission field are providing a variety of life lessons for Micah, Jake, and Caleb to stand tall and to shine – sticking out bold and bright in the name of Christ. It’s not easy. But, it makes a difference in the here and now and for the glory of God of above. For in such times, our sons are being identified with Christ in ways we do not always understand or appreciate.
Jesus calls such persecution, a blessing.
It’s not a surprise.
It’s one of the ways we shine in Him and for Him… and stick out.