I recently learned that one of the most oppressed groups in our country are children, teenagers and adults with disabilities. I never realized how oppressed this group was until I heard a speaker describe how they are told from sunup to sundown what to do or how they are misinterpreted because of their inability to speak clearly or be heard. I can’t remember the name of the speaker but I believe God showed me through her how behavioral issues are triggered by not being able to communicate and the frustration of not being heard.
How would you feel if you had something important to say and no one ever listened to you or heard you? Or you attempt to say something and you’re laughed at or ignored because people think you’re just babbling? What would you do? Would you throw things? Hit someone to try to get attention?
I’ve been praying for wisdom to help my daughter with Down syndrome become who He has called her to be. Last night I laid on the bed and listened to her talk. She told me about her friend Ariana who has a birthday coming up. And she animatedly described her delight of eating bagels and cream cheese for breakfast at school. She mixed in some nonsensical imaginative stories about being the mom of one of her favorite TV show characters.
But I was able to separate the babble about being a mom with the true coherent description of the episodes of her day. I then started thinking of how frustrated people get when they are not heard and how that translates to behavioral issues. When I’m not heard, I withdraw, shut down and then consider that what I have to say isn’t important. Therefore if it isn’t important, then I’m worthless and I have no value.
How many times do we send the signal to people that they are worthless and have no value to our lives but not hearing them? They become oppressed when we ignore valid concerns or don’t treat them like people with value or worth. God hates oppression but as a culture, we tolerate it as normal behavior.
Here’s a snapshot of God’s attitude about oppression:
Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth,
or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty. Proverbs 22:16
do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart. Zechariah 7:10
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. Psalm 146:6-9
I know that DÁndra has an advocate with the Father who hates oppression. But I need to do my part to not create an oppressive life for her. Here are some things God showed me how I can create a life of freedom in the Spirit for DÁndra:
Listen to her. I mean really listen to her. Turn off every distraction and listen to her, listen to her heart, listen to her moods.
Respond to her. Laugh, hold her hand, pray for her when needed.
Treat her like a person of value. This means that I don’t ignorantly humiliate or disrespect her by saying things that I wouldn’t dare say to anyone else.
I hate to say this because you will think of less of me, but I admit that DÁndra has shown me more than anyone in my life how much of a jerk I am. She has revealed my selfishness and pride. And when those dark parts of me are exposed, I don’t like it. I lash out but then I cry out to God.
God has stepped in every time by not fixing me, but changing my heart towards my daughter. And when my heart is changed, everything is changed.
By dealing with my own bent towards ignorantly oppressing her, God has softened my heart towards other people that I would usually ignore or not notice. Last week I talked to my neighbor who is an elderly gentleman. I even told Jerome we should invite him over to our holiday dinner.
I would usually brush past him lost in own busyness. Recently God showed me how He wanted me to able to bring His presence anywhere, anytime to anyone. But I need to be available and flexible enough to hear Him when He wants to bring life to someone like my neighbor who is ignored by his family.
So just as God has challenged me, I challenge you to not ignore the person who you don’t want to talk to because you’re too busy. Or you shut them off when they start talking to you. Treat people like they are valuable and worth something. Because they are certainly valuable enough to God for Him to hate oppression.