Me and A.D.D.
I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) at the age of eight, and I took Ritalin all the way until my junior year of college. It is not uncommon for me to sometimes joke about my ADD nowadays. However, growing up, it wasn’t something that I was keen to letting anyone know about—though it was fairly obvious to my classmates and teachers that I was more interested in anything (SQUIRREL!) than my actual school work. I had no idea that at the age of 37, I would be drawing from this part of my life in very practical ways to serve the people of Redemption Church here in Seattle. What a great God we serve and wonderful people we get to share life with!
What do Attention Deficit Disorders have to do with Jesus and pastoring? Well, recently one member in our congregation reached out to talk to me about his child who has been diagnosed with ADHD. In particular, he asked,
How do you get a child to believe that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:4), when they believe they have a 'deficit' and a ‘disorder?’
That question hit me like a ton of bricks! It was something I’d wrestled with my whole life! I took some time to reflect, jot my thoughts down, pray, and then respond. Since then, I’ve been in touch with the Dad and asked him if he’d mind if I shared a couple of these thoughts, in light of my experience with a similar diagnosis, and he responded with a green light! So, here are some of my thoughts on A.D.D. and being a Child of God.
Acknowledging My Limitations
First, I responded by saying that a Christian counselor would probably give a much more informed answer than I could, since they are better trained to think through all of the theology and psychology involving a situation like this one. Having acknowledged my limitations, I proceeded to help in the best way I could.
I Have A ‘Disorder'
I spoke of my self-hatred that came along as a byproduct of ADD. I believed that something was very wrong with me, and thus I rejected myself, and a deep sense of self-hatred went down into my heart. Additionally, when my ADD did affect a regular routine in life such as forgetting where my house keys were, my dad would sometimes ask, “Did you remember to take your Ritalin today?” He didn’t do this to shame me or embarrass me—not once. The man was and still is my hero. He championed grace and love in ways that I’ll always strain to grasp. He was genuinely trying to help me grow. However, words like “deficit” and “disorder” towered over me in those moments and all I could hear from my Dad was, “Geez, Alex… can’t you just get it together?” Thus, unknowingly and unintentionally, this compounded the fracture for me and wasn’t as helpful as it could have been. Hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? Perhaps there were other ways of reminding me that wouldn’t have resulted in so much shame.
Still in the Image of God!
Being “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God and yet having words like “disorder” attached to you can be so frustrating! As a Pastor, I highly value the medical community and I believe they are another unbelievable grace of God given to serve his world. However, a doctor’s diagnosis in no way removes the image of God from a person, the love of God for a person, or the plan of God over person’s life. The image of God is stamped onto every single human being. Sin and its effects did not knock us down a rung to the animal kingdom in which the image of God is not found. Rather, we are still fearfully and wonderfully made by our loving Creator, though we are born into a broken world.
Small Words and BIG Words
Additionally, like all of God’s children, we each have some things about us that we’d change immediately about ourselves if we could. Some would be taller. Some would weigh less. Some would be more athletic. Some would have a higher IQ. Some would be married and have kids. Some would live in other places on the earth, and on it goes. Part of the good news of the gospel is that though these things are often with us our entire lives, our God loves us and has sent the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and comfort us even with the things that frustrate us about ourselves.
Having ADHD is simply one word, a smaller word, a man-made word, that human beings use to describe something biological about us. However, we’re not bound simply to use words of biology. We’re also blessed with Bible words—God’s words, theological words. The Bible uses words like “Child,” “Son/Daughter,” “Image-bearer,” “beloved,” “chosen,” and “cherished” to speak about our identity. These are the BIG words, the TRUEST words, the FIRST words, and the STRONGEST words about us, to us, and over us.
Throughout life, we all battle with our identity, don’t we?
"Am I O.K.?"
"They call me ‘________.’"
“Am I enough?”
“Have I measured up?”
As Christian moms and dads it is imperative that we remind both our children and ourselves daily that
Above everything else I am/you are a child of God come what may.
A Few Bullet Point Takeaways:
Acknowledge your limitations especially in the areas in which you may not have as much training as someone like a licensed therapist.
However, don’t allow your limitations to keep you from speaking boldly and creatively as you seek to apply God’s Word to a person’s life.
Never use A.D.D. (or anything else!) to shame your child. Shame is to have no place in a child’s life.
Lead out always with God’s Words of loving affirmation as the First Word that as you speak about man’s words regarding a ‘deficit’ or ‘disorder.’
It never hurts to remind a child that it won’t always be this way.