We’re not much different than kids. We all do it. Grab the last one. We race to the only empty parking spot at the mall. We snatch the final electronic sale-priced item on the shelf.
Kids squabble over the last piece of cake. Their arguments can get nasty. What’s the solution? Have one cut it into two pieces. Let the other choose his piece. That ensures the cutter will slice it into equal pieces. Yet, the chooser often examines the two pieces like a scientist examining evidence under a microscope. Searching for any evidence one is larger than the other. Seeking an incremental difference.
Sometimes the difference isn’t so subtle. If you have several children, you know each one is unique—vastly unlike the others. Mental illness (MI) magnifies the differences. Your child with MI requires more time, attention, and prayer. No wonder the lower-maintenance kids feel left out.
While our boys were growing up, I did the best I could. Each day consisted of the usual responsibilities: teaching, making meals, taking the boys to practices, running errands, ensuring homework got done, and grading my students’ papers. All in the context of my having multiple sclerosis.
Some days also included dealing with Chris’s MI, finding out how Chris managed during the day, picking up medication or making a doctor appointment, talking to one of Chris’s teachers…
Our other son, Rob, lost out on much of my attention. I wished things were different.
When Chris went away to college, he called home often. One day Rob said, “When I go to college, I won’t be calling that much.”
His remark had a hint of judgment to it. So I replied, “What’s the difference between you and your brother?”
“The grace of God,” I gently pointed out. In hopes of restoring his compassion for Chris.
Chris didn’t choose to have MI. He did nothing to deserve it. It wasn’t his fault.
When Rob was in high school, I heard a teaching on Christian radio on the importance of affirming your children. I assumed Rob knew how much I loved him, but just wanted to check. “Where do you think you fall in my list of priorities?” I asked him.
“After Chris,” he replied.
His answer stunned me.
How could he not know how much I love him? Has MI stolen Rob’s sense of belonging? Has it masked my affection for him? Has this wretched disease inflicted pain on both my sons?
I decided to make a concerted effort to assure him of my love. I wanted to convince him that I loved him more than the air I breathed. I seized every opportunity to remind him of my love.
One Friday night, Rob and the other drum major were scheduled to play the national anthem at a basketball game. Sheets of rain made it difficult to see as I drove to the high school. When we arrived, Rob hesitated. “I don’t want to walk in wearing this uniform before Kristen arrives.”
“Do you want me to see if she’s in there?” I offered.
I returned (fairly drenched) with the news she’d arrived. Before Rob left the car I stopped him.
“Do you feel affirmed? Chris isn’t here. I went in there for you. Because I love you.”
How is it possible a teenager can underestimate his mother’s love for him? Same way we underestimate God’s love for us. That’s why Paul prayed on behalf of believers saying, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Dear heavenly Father, help us to comprehend how much You love us. Help us recognize the many ways You reveal Your love in our lives.
In Your Son’s name, Amen.
Reflect on how much God loves you as you enjoy this YouTube video I made (photographs by me and the song ‘Draw Me Close to You’ by Michael W. Smith):