Most people probably wouldn’t intentionally put the words “defiant” and “joy” together in a sentence. Unless maybe they say that a child’s defiance was stealing their joy. Merriam Webster defines “defiant” as “showing a disposition to challenge, resist, or fight.” If we hear that our children are being defiant, we do not take this as a compliment. We imagine them choosing disrespectful words or actions. Instantly we would begin brainstorming how we can guide our children to fix these wrong choices. But what if we flipped the script on defiance and saw this inner desire to “challenge, resist, or fight” as something we could channel for good? When walking through challenging seasons, joy can sometimes feel like it is slipping through our fingertips as we move from obstacle to obstacle. What if we could channel our childrens’ inner “challenger” to motivate them to be determined to hold tight to joy no matter the circumstances?
This particular season of parenting has been especially arduous for me, because I felt like I couldn’t learn enough strategies fast enough to set our sensational child on a different trajectory. Following Jesus and thriving at school are two things that bring me the most joy in life. I love being with other believers and growing in my faith, and I love going to school where every day my colleagues and students teach me something new, and I have the blessing of getting to spark new learning for them, too. When church and school were especially hard for our child this fall and winter, everything in life seemed burdensome. Church and school have always brought me so much joy and purpose, so I couldn’t imagine living in a world where these two beautiful communities wouldn’t bring my child joy as well.
One of my favorite Bible teachers, Kristi McClelland, recorded a powerful podcast for season one episode 8 titled “Defiant Joy.” She taught about how James, the half-brother of Jesus, encouraged the early church to hold fast to their joy even though situations were so dire under Roman oppression. If anyone would have reason to lose hope, James would have an understandable reason, since he would have watched Jesus endure such a brutal crucifixion. However James also had the incomparable blessing of seeing Jesus come to life again and overcome sin once and for all. I never thought about the book of James as being the first words the early church circulated to encourage one another to continue in the faith. I thought that the early church had access to the gospels first, because that’s how our New Testaments are organized. The fact that the book of James was probably the first New Testament book that was cycling around the early church causes me to pause and reflect on why it was crucial that his words were the first to be shared? His words rallied the early church to hold on to their joy even though so many were losing their lives for following Jesus.
This podcast hit home with me, because sometimes throughout this past year I allowed our child’s sensory processing disorder diagnosis to steal my joy. Learning about sensory friendly diets and strategies wasn’t something I intentionally sought to research extensively until we found ourselves living in the reality of sensory processing disorder daily life. However, the beauty of walking through this season has taught me so much about our central nervous systems, social emotional learning, and the need to connect emotional regulation with every aspect of our life.
God intentionally made us with our central nervous systems and a full range of emotions. Instead of seeing a disorganized central nervous system and unregulated emotions as the enemies, I am learning to see this journey as a way to experience how intricately and intentionally God has created each one of us. He never makes mistakes, even when a disorder challenges us beyond what we think we can handle or understand. The life giving part about facing a disorder head on is that you can gain a community of people who speak encouragement into your journey to help you hold tight to joy and help you take the daily baby steps needed to grow through the process.
Now that we are two months into occupational therapy, I can thankfully say we are seeing a dramatic change in our child’s sensory processing system and emotional regulation. He is becoming so much more self-aware to advocate for his own needs when things are too loud, and he wants to wear his headphones. He can hold multiple tasks into his brain and not be overwhelmed by what he needs to accomplish. He happily colors and creates beautiful verbal stories as he draws. He is able to notice his emotions and work through positive ways to handle disappointment, anger, and frustration. Instead of viewing his sensitivity to sensory stimulation as a negative obstacle to overcome, I am learning that the intuitiveness of his central nervous system is going to make him the most incredible inventor and scientist some day.
But in order to arrive in this healing place, we had to look beyond the frustrating, confusing, or defiant words and actions and see what was really motivating his behavior. This is one of the main reasons I write about our challenges and victories with sensory processing disorder. I want other families to know that there is hope, healing, and beauty when we walk through situations that seem beyond what we know how to handle. Other families are going through hard things, too, and we aren’t meant to struggle and strive on our own. We were created to live in a community that encourages one another to hold tight to joy and celebrates victories together.
Friend, I am wondering which areas of your life are threatening to steal your joy?
- Where do we need to defiantly say, “Not anymore! I will not let this obstacle or challenge steal my joy!”?
- Where do we need to remind ourselves of James 1: 2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The trials we encounter in this life make us more mature and complete when we face the challenges with the hope of Jesus. Let’s face these obstacles defiantly together and wait expectantly for God to show us the victory. I hope this song by Elevation Worship: “See a Victory” encourages your soul as we wait together for God to show us the victory.