– FEATURE GUEST POST BY RYAN EVANS –
The following message is the result of a recent paradigm shifting moment of clarity I experienced which allowed God’s Spirit to reveal a few simple yet powerful truths to me. These simple truths have had a profound impact on my life, my relationship with Him, and my relations to other people over the past few months.
In case you haven’t read any of my other guest posts here on Manturity then allow me to give a brief background such that this message can be received in context. I am a man who is 30 years old and have been married for 11 years. My wife and I parent Brianna, a 6 year old daughter with Down syndrome, deemed “disabled”, as well as Eliana, a 4 year old daughter, deemed “gifted”.
For a more thorough understanding of who I am and how I have honestly struggled with having a “disabled” child, read A Man of Grace.
Recently during one of our family’s weekly Friday trips to Chick-Fil-A, our children each received a small package of tangrams with their kid’s meal. (Looking back to your childhood days, you may remember playing with these colorful, geometrically shaped blocks which are used to create all sorts of numbers, designs, and patterns; I do and I used to love them.) Naturally, the first time that we peeled away the plastic and geared up to start solving all of the little animal challenges that accompanied the tangrams, I was excited to be sharing a portion of my childhood with my children. I quickly picked out what I thought was the simplest design (a pig) and proceeded to fit the pieces together while I explained the concept to my on looking daughters.
I quickly became frustrated. For what seemed like the next 30 minutes, I tried every possible permutation of these tangrams but simply could not get the little pig to shape up.
I even went as far as to ask Eliana (the “gifted” daughter) if she could figure it out; she tried but she was also stumped.
Brianna (the “disabled” daughter) repeatedly tried to talk to me but I repeatedly brushed her off… I was narrowly focused only on the problem at hand.
So I did what any rational and prideful man would do… I concluded that we were clearly “missing some pieces”.
Then, as I proceeded to pack up this “defective” set and find something else to do, Brianna called out to me again and finally got my attention. In her hands was the instructional sheet which showed the overall shape of the designs. I thanked her but told her that I had already seen that paper but that unfortunately our set was incomplete.
“No daddy”, she said, “Look”.
On the back of the challenge sheet, which I had not yet seen, was a more detailed outline of each design but showed individual dashed lines in between the proper placement of the pieces… a cheat sheet. I was so consumed with a desire to solve the problem that it never occurred to me to pause and seek external guidance or at least to hear from Brianna.
Once I allowed for the external input that I had assumed wouldn’t be needed or helpful, it didn’t take more than 30 seconds to figure out my mistake and arrange the pieces so that the pig quickly shaped up.
I sat back for a second as this surreal moment of clarity happened to me while God’s Spirit spoke to my deep places.
1) Based off past experience, I dismissed the instructions and pridefully relied on my own abilities.
As an engineer, I naturally possess a high spatial reasoning ability. I can manipulate objects 3-dimensionally in my mind and “see” them how they fit together from every side. Also, having had a lot of previous experience with tangrams, I was overly confident that I could easily make any of the simple designs proposed in a kid’s meal.
2) Based off past experience, I negated other potential sources of input needed to obtain additional information which resulted in self-inflicted frustration.
Did you notice in my story how I never asked Brianna if she could figure it out or even allowed her to get my attention? I asked Eliana though. I came to realize that I had put Brianna “In a Box” which led to the assumption that she would have a difficult time evaluating and communicating a solution to this frustrating problem. Also, I put Eliana “In a Box” because I had assumed that she might be able to help despite knowing and seeing the exact same amount of tangrams as Brianna. Nevertheless, Brianna was the one who saved the day… Both of the “boxes” were equally unfair to each child.
I realized that I had disallowed Brianna a chance to speak life into a situation (negated her as a potential source) because of the box I put her in, and I prolonged a frustrating problem due to pride from my own past experiences (relied on my own abilities).
Have you ever discounted the ability of another source – perhaps a friend, loved one, or fellow brother – to even be able to speak life into your problem or situation?
Have you ever disallowed yourself to seek out a solution from another source – perhaps a friend, loved one, or fellow brother – because you pridefully believed your abilities would be sufficient if given enough time?
God revealed that I treat Him the same way.
Based off of your own past experiences – perhaps with perceived unanswered prayers, God’s apparent silence, or another’s input that was not applicable – have you stopped allowing yourself to hear God’s spirit/voice like I disallowed myself to hear Brianna’s voice?
Have you ever discounted the ability for God to speak life into your problem or situation because of personal pride in your own abilities?
Here are 5 things I learned from this experience which have positively impacted my relationships with God and others:
1) Focusing on the problem at hand hinders our ability to hear from the Spirit and disallows the potential input from others that may have more experience, greater skill, or godly wisdom.
2) Closing our minds, hearts, or ears toward both God and others puts them “in a Box”. Whether consciously or subconsciously, when we judge others unjustly it puts them “in a Box” by imposing limits on their perceived worth, ability or value. Though God may actually be speaking to us or though others may actually be willing to help us, we won’t hear them and it won’t help.
3) By only relying on our existing skills and/or knowledge base from past experiences to confront life’s challenges will not increase our wisdom and will not further mold us into the image of Jesus. The inevitable hardships of this worldly life are actually necessary to for our growth in wisdom, brotherly love, and spiritual maturity.
4) Even time well spent (like the time I was spending with my daughters) will become more valuable if we remove God and others from their boxes. For instance, if I would have allowed Brianna to speak sooner, it would have resulted in her reducing my prolonged frustration while she was experiencing the joy of really helping her daddy and growing in her perception of self-worth.
5) It’s never too late to recognize that everyone’s abilities, worth, and value isn’t defined by our faulty perceptions and doesn’t depend on our unjustified judgments. Everyone, everywhere, and at any time is capable speaking life into our circumstances and shouldn’t be discounted for any reason – God uses the weak to humble the strong.
Have you ever put God or someone close in a box? Share your thoughts on this question or one from above in the comments. [guidelines]