Saturday, January 16, 2010
The Great Party
Last night at our "Extreme Parenting" (support group for parents of kids with special needs) meeting, we reflected together on the passage in the Bible in Luke 14 about the Great Banquet. Jesus tells a story about a man who prepares a great party and has his servant go tell those who had been invited that everything was ready and that they should come. The passage goes on to talk about three people who made various (lame) excuses about why they couldn't come (purchased land, new cows, new wife). The host was angered but, instead of calling the whole thing off, he tells his servant to go get the "poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame, " and to bring them to the party. He does but there is still more room so people from "the highways and the lanes" are brought in so that the house may be full and, presumably, as many people as possible could enjoy the party.
Now, studying scripture with different groups of people is so interesting to me. It really does feel like the Bible is alive because it "comes to life" so differently depending on the perspective that you have (as an individual or a group) when you come to it. This particular night, we were struck by the craziness of inviting a bunch of "people with special needs" to a party. Several of us shared, with some amount of pain, that our disabled kids don't often get invited to parties. Think about it, who would want a party full of people with autism? or ADHD? Many of our kids are not the people you think of when you imagine having a fun party. Somehow, they are forgotten when it comes to gatherings or playdates. And honestly, many of our kids have behavior issues that don't jive with having fun at a party. One mom shared that for a while her autistic son had a thing with chewing on power cords when going to other people's houses. We've taken Josh to birthday parties but he usually spends them trying to get away from the chaos and the noise of the other kids. He will always find his way to the back of a bouncy house where the motor and fan are and sit so he can enjoy the concentric circles of the fan and the humming noise, which he will mimic (for an hour if I let him). I guess he's having fun but it gets to be a little weird after a while. I have a feeling Josh is just never going to grow up to be that person who can walk around with a cocktail in his hand, ask people how they are doing, and charm them with delightful stories.
However, it struck us that Jesus is telling a story about a host (God) who WANTS all of these disabled people at his house. I can tell you that it was probably not easy to host a bunch of blind, lame, or otherwise disabled people in your house, especially in those days, where people with disabilities were not valued, empowered or integrated into general society. These were probably uneducated, unemployed beggars. Who knows what their social skills were like. One does not gain social capital from having a party for this crew. But they had need and clearly wanted to receive what was being offered. None of them made excuses.
And what of these people from the "highways and lanes"? My guess is that they were either travelers, homeless, or prostitutes-- also, not the population that one might invite to a lovely, delightful, socially smooth party. Yet this is what this host does. "Bring them in! Compel them to come!" he says.
It was a pretty profound thing to watch a bunch of parents of kids with special needs to realize that God is someone who wants our kids in His house. He would be willing to deal with a house full of people like them - and the baggage that they bring. And if the party/ banquet is an image for heaven, then there is a message in the scripture that there is room for a person like Josh in heaven. In fact, he might be more likely to get there because he is so clearly needy and in need. Joshua has never made an excuse in his life.
Sometimes I forget that there were disabled people throughout human history and in Jesus' time as well. As our little group has studied various scriptures that either mention or apply to the disabled, I've been amazed at how the scripture speaks. It is so full of application to our lives. As a group of parents of kids with special needs, we started having brief scripture studies/ devotionals because we are a group of people who are so constantly in need of encouragement, even more than venting (which is not always encouraging). I went away from our gathering full of thoughts and hope.