goats and sheep

Warning: Me and Jesus are going to step on some toes.  I actually started this post several days ago and I’ve edited and edited and edited some more.  This is as good as it gets.

I watched a news-clip a few days ago that told the story of a man burning the American flag outside of a VFW.  Being a typical self-righteous American, I instantly labeled the flag-burner as “un-American”.  I don’t think I really need to explain it, but I gave him that label because his actions stand in contradiction to my definition of patriotism.

Because I over-analyze every. little. thing., I thought long and hard about whether or not I show the same passion about my ideals in all my other roles as I do about being an American…

I have called the police after seeing a Mom leave her baby in a hot car and a man beating his toddler in a store. Mom ideals defended

I have hung a purple and gold flag outside my house while living in Columbus, Georgia. LSU fan ideals defended

I have lost friendships with women who wanted me to justify their infidelity. wife ideals defended

I have stood by friends and shown them love and grace as they confessed their infidelity and worked at healing their marriages. friend ideals defended

My over-analyzing thoughts then went to my faith.  Why is it so much easier to call out a flag-burning American for being un-American than it is to call out a cold-hearted Christian for being unChristian?  If you’ve read killing babies, you already know that my emotions run deep when it comes to Christians failing to be Christ-like.  I sat self-righteously smiling as I thought… “Yeah.  I’m good on the faith-front too.  I wrote a blog-post all about taking a stand for Christian ideals.  Several hundred people have read it so I even have witnesses to the fact that I stand up for what is right and wrong.”  And then something unexpected.  My self-righteous smile was replaced with a quivering lip and tears that threatened to spill from my eyes.  You see….

It was easy to address “The Church” at large, for hurting people.  God has done a pretty amazing job at healing my abortion and “lack of grace from The Church” wounds.  The tears began to spill over my eyelids as I realized that it is much easier to address something that is general and in the past, than to address it when it’s personal and a recurring source of pain.

Jesus’ own brother said that God defines true religion as caring for orphans and widows.  When our family was called to adopt we didn’t question the calling.  We took note of the fact that people often looked at us like we’d lost our minds as we declared that we were adopting a little girl with autism and that, “Yes, we do already have a son with autism.  And, yes.  We also have two teenagers.”  Most of those looks came from people who didn’t claim to be Christians though.  Our Christian friends and family stepped up with encouragement and support of every kind.  And then we brought her home.  Most of our support network continued to show us love, encouragement and acceptance in the first year that she was with us.  Then things changed.

As I prepared for Sofija’s sixth birthday I began to take notice of some things.  Maybe I had just grown accustomed to the way people treated us with one child on the autism spectrum.  As I thought about our now very limited social life, I realized that people were a little freaked out by two children on the autism spectrum showing up at the same place at the same time.  This realization made me sad.  Seth and Sofija are two of the greatest gifts any person could ever experience.  And although we have an abundance of people in our lives who treasure every moment spent with them, there are people in our lives who apparently have no clue how to show love to a child who doesn’t meet society’s definition of normal.  Here’s a clue, people… Just love them!  Talk to them like you talk to any other person.  If they respond differently, laugh it off and take note of the moment.  It will likely be one of the richest moments of your life.

When we first moved to the DC area I began praying for friends who were in the same season of life.  Dear hubby and I got married at 22 and became parents ten months and one week later.  Since most people in this area wait to get married and have children, I found that most of my peers had very young children and that the parents of my children’s peers are usually a little older than us. When we adopted Sofija, things just seemed to make sense.  She was born just before we turned 35.  Our peer group in the area have children her age and since we now had a child the same age as all of our friends, we would have more reasons to spend time with all of our friends.  Only it didn’t work out that way.  Our family’s social invitations that had once been overly abundant, greatly dwindled.  I took into consideration that there were now six of us and that it requires a lot of space and food to entertain a family the size of ours.  I pushed aside my concerns over our dwindling social life and invited all of our single friends and the families of every 3, 4, 5 and 6-year-old we know to her party.  My insecurities and doubts quickly disappeared when almost everyone invited showed up.  I came up with at least half a dozen reasons for people not inviting her to parties for their children.  Maybe people forgot she was only five when we brought her home?  She IS huge for her age.  Heck, sometimes I have to remind myself how young she is.  Or maybe they just forgot we have a young child now.  I mean, really.  Who invites a family with teenagers to a party for a 4 or 5-year-old?  Since she was five when we brought her home it did just seem like she appeared out of nowhere.  I can totally see how people could forget all about her.  Or maybe people just didn’t want her to steal the show from their own child.  After all, she does tend to be the most beautiful child in any given room.

I managed to get through a couple of months with my justifications before emails were forwarded to me that reprimanded care-takers for allowing Sofija around other children.  “She’s a danger.”  Evidently someone thinks autism is contagious.  Many months and several un-Christ-like encounters later, I landed in my thoughts concerning the ideals I’m willing to stand up for.

I have quoted Matthew 25:40 to the Christian mom who declared my daughter a danger on several occasions just hoping that she’d “get it”.  It is taken from Jesus’ parable on goats and sheep.

Matthew 25:31-46 “When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

   I was hungry and you fed me,
   I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
   I was homeless and you gave me a room,
   I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
   I was sick and you stopped to visit,
   I was in prison and you came to me.’

 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: WHENEVER YOU DID ONE OF THESE THINGS TO SOMEONE OVERLOOKED OR IGNORED, THAT WAS ME—YOU DID IT TO ME.’

 “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

   I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
   I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
   I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
   I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
   Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

 “Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.”

In order to stop beating our heads against a proverbial wall, dear hubby and I have taken steps to protect Sofija from encounters with the mom who declared her “a danger”.  We also try to remember our Miranda rights before all conversations concerning our children…. “Anything we say can and WILL be used against us (& our children).”  We’ve ensured that there is one less orphan in the world and we will continue to do everything in our power for “the overlooked and ignored”.  Or as other translations say, “the least of these”.

But you know what?  That’s not enough.  The parable doesn’t just talk about the rewards for those who look out for the overlooked and ignored.  It gives a strong warning for those who don’t.  Here’s the deal.  I don’t want that warning to apply to anyone I care about.  I don’t want to be a sheep in a flock that includes goats and I don’t plan to leave our flock.  I think the position I’m in is referred to as a quagmire.

After wiping the tears from my eyes, I remembered that I have a platform to speak from.  I sat down to write this post without knowing exactly what I would say, but knowing that I had to use my blog to say something.  As an American it is acceptable for me to declare my disgust over a man burning a flag.  But why exactly does that disgust me?  Maybe it’s because I’ve been married to a soldier for more than eighteen years and because our family has made very real sacrifices to insure that the American flag still stands for freedom.  That man’s actions did not just disgust me.  They pained me.  I experienced emotional pain over his lack of appreciation for the freedom that flag represented.

As a Mom, I do find disgust in anyone calling my daughter a danger.  But as a Christian, it pains me to witness other Christians ignoring the warning in the second half of that parable.  The sacrifices my family has made for American freedoms don’t come close to the sacrifice Jesus made for eternal freedom.  Shouldn’t a Christian hurt at the sight of their Christian brothers and sisters overlooking or (worse yet) discriminating against “the least of these”?

I should probably make it clear that I’m not looking for apologies or invites.  I am also not insinuating that anyone who has not invited Sofija to a birthday party has hurt our family.  I just wish that people would see that God has called everyone who claims to be his follower to take care of orphans and to go the extra mile for those with disabilities.  I’m just hoping that someone will read this and ‘get it’.  That a Christian or two will read Jesus’ parable and take a stand to be a sheep and not a goat.

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