Creating a Space where Everybody Belongs

Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in? Like unspoken expectations have been placed on you and you’ve spent a good part of your life trying to meet said expectations only to end up frustrated, lost, and slightly miserable? I know this has been true for me at certain points in my life.

Especially in my motherhood. You see, I can’t have children naturally. I am infertile. So, my husband and I had to break the “this-is-how-you-grow-your-family-mold” and we grew our family through adoption, three times. Upon bringing our eldest daughter home we quickly learned that our mold-breaking days has just begun because, you see, our daughter has Down syndrome. 

And the truth is, a child with Down syndrome does not fit into any of the typical molds society has created for children — or for humans for that matter. My daughter learns differently at school, she dances differently in her dance class, she responds differently in her church. This “different” type of behavior has led most of these spaces, as well as the majority of the systems in place, to create a separate space for people like my daughter.  A “special” class if you will. But my daughter does not live in a separate, special world. She lives in the same world as you and me. So rather than create a separate mold, she has shown me the importance of shattering the molds that already exist and making a space where everyone belongs.

After bringing our eldest daughter home we adopted two more children, including another child with Down syndrome and so we found ourselves breaking molds on our left and our right, showing the world just how amazing people who don’t fit in the molds are. And in so doing we learned so much more about the greatest mold-breaker of all time…Jesus! Jesus was a mold-breaker. Throughout his entire ministry, he placed little bombs of radical love in the molds created by the society he was born into and blew up people’s ideas about what – and who – matter most in life.

Jesus blew up all kinds of social norms, especially when it came to caring for the outcasts of society, for the people who don’t fit in the molds. His friends would be like, “Dude, you can’t interact with that person.” And Jesus would be like, “Watch me!” Or the religious leaders of the day would say, “Hey, Jesus, you can’t heal someone on the day of rest.” And then Jesus would look at them and say, “Actually, I can!” And then his little bombs of radical love were displayed in ways that literally changed the world. 

As a mother to mold-breakers, I am sustained and motivated by the ministry and life of Jesus. And I also feel a sense of wonder and awe that I get to know Jesus in this way. Because the thing is, the characteristics of Jesus and the heart of God are found in all the different kinds of people, not just the people who fit into the molds. My children with Down syndrome, who are image-bearers of God, reflect the character of God in a way that only they can. To place expectations on them to fit in a nice neat mold and be more like me would be to miss out on a part of God that I see shine so brightly through them. 

The same is true for you, friend. You are the only you there is. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, and the world needs to see the reflection of God that shines through you. So, if you are feeling like you just don’t fit in the molds you’ve been trying so desperately to fit in, maybe it’s time to do a little digging, excavating, and blowing up of those molds. Maybe it’s time to create a space where everyone can belong. Because when we radically shift our expectations and create a space where everyone belongs, we have an unmatched opportunity to better understand the heart of God. 

 

About the Author

Heather Avis is the author of Scoot Over and Make Some Room and The Lucky Few, and is a popular speaker, podcaster, and Instagrammer. Her family’s story has been covered by numerous outlets including TIME, TODAY, and POPSUGAR. She is a wife to her loving and supportive husband, Josh, and mother to Macyn, Truly, and August. They live in Southern California. Connect with her online at https://www.heatheravis.com.

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