My family recently returned from a once in a life time trip to Florida that was provided by the folks at Make a Wish. I’ve written before about our son named Dominic who was born with a very rare genetic disorder and as a result is profoundly disabled. His doctors suggested a number of months ago that we look into making a wish come true for him, so they got the ball rolling for us.
Within a matter of months the caring people at Make A Wish had planned out and fully funded Dominic’s wish trip to Disney World! The truly special part of this wish was that we would be staying in a unique place called Give Kids the World which was designed for families like ours and is truly a remarkable destination.
I could write volumes about how thankful I am to the staff and hundreds of volunteers who give of themselves to make each family experience what it must be like to be royalty. I could also go on about spending time with my wife and witnessing her vocation as mother in full throttle as she anticipated and constantly sacrificed herself for the needs of our kids, especially Dominic who is…a bit complicated.
Instead I wanted to relate to you three spiritual lessons that I took from our trip to Give Kids the World.
You are worth the trouble
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship” (CS Lewis)
Once you step onto the grounds of Give Kids the World you feel like you have been transported into another time and place. We were greeted with smiles and were told “welcome home”. After eating and meeting Santa after our long day of travel we noticed that there was a horse carriage ride for the kids to go on. My wife and I immediately were taken aback that there was a wheelchair lift on the back of the carriage so my son, who is wheelchair bound, could take a ride too.
We were given a tour and looked all around and noticed that there were merry go rounds and train rides which had all been adapted so that kids like Dominic could participate in the fun with their families.
From all of the accessible rides and events to the people who paid attention to each of our needs, there was a language spoken in that community which shouted…you are worth the trouble.
In a culture where we are measured by what we do instead of who we are, kids like Dominic can be seen purely as a burden. But not this place. There was a distinct sense that each person has intrinsic value and those who were serving there went to great pains to ensure that each of us knew that we were worth the trouble.
God wants each of you to know that you are worth the trouble…just look at a Crucifix.
“Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil” (Luke 11:39)
On our trip I had the opportunity to be surrounded by kids like Dominic who on the exterior appeared distorted, weak and frail. However, when you get to know kids like this you realize that their interior life is spotless. Dominic isn’t inflicted with the temptation to sin. While he appears wounded from the outside, interiorly he has completely surrendered himself to the care of God and us, his parents who are entrusted with his protection.
Seeing these children is a stark reminder that although we may appear to have it together and show an outward appearance of health, we are all wounded. Each of us struggle with the tendency towards sin, which as George Weigel puts is “the failure to live freedom excellently”.
Pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony and lust wrap themselves around our desires in some fashion or another and tarnish the interior beauty for which were made. We often try and cover these vices with an exterior façade to make others believe that we are ok…but make no mistake, we are not ok.
Just as children like Dominic have surgeries, treatments and therapy to fix what is broken with their physical bodies, we are called to continually open ourselves to the grace of God which heals our interior mess and replaces what is broken with the life of Christ which can be described in terms of Faith, Hope, Charity, Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice.
Communicate Through Joy
“So that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11)
One of the great takeaways from our trip was the great sense of joy which surrounded us and the palpable love of others that was on display for all to drink in. I learned that as parents we can teach our kids about God through the language of love and joy much more easily than sound doctrine and carefully recited prayers.
Religious people are often characterized in our culture as stuffy, rigid individuals who would rather snuff out any enjoyment than risk the possibility of the occasion of sin. There can be some merit to this characterization, but it is not a picture of authentic Christianity.
Children are wired with a pretty sensitive BS meter which hones in on any injustice. If we find ourselves rigidly passing on the faith through our words, but they can’t see through our actions that Christ has made a difference in our life then they will eventually call BS and tune it all out.
Long before the Bible was even written we know that the Christian faith exploded in a time and place where their beliefs were illegal and a gruesome death was certain for believing them. This seemingly unexplainable phenomenon happened because the Christian faith was communicated through the language of love and joy. Those who saw others living in this radically different way were attracted by how Christians treated each other and wanted what they had.
Certainly Christian doctrine shouldn’t be ignored and is a wonderful way to sharpen the mind to prepare our kids to be able to work through more complicated questions and predicaments as they grow older. However, I believe that our primary duty as parents and especially fathers is to transmit who God is through our actions. We can show them what a disciple lives like by sacrificing our good for theirs and convey that Christ wants us to be happy and experience joy.
“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)