“Oh! You’re Tim’s Mom!”
(Or, with the alternative eyebrow raising intonation: “Oh! You’re Tim’s Mom!”)
Many people in our town know my youngest son, Tim. Often, Tim is recognizable because he has Down syndrome—and there aren’t that many people in Ephrata, PA who are recipients of that “noticeable extra little something” called the 47th chromosome. Also, Tim is a bit of a local celebrity because—somehow—he seemed to regularly end up on the front of the newspaper, in the evening news, or on YouTube for his accomplishments when he was in high school. (We once ran into a fellow in the Chicago O’Hare Airport who recognized Tim from his YouTube high school basketball video—and even called him by name!)
But recently, the locals’ familiarity with Tim seems to occur because he is the Front Porch Attendant (FPA) at our Mennonite-run grocery store. When I drop him off at work every evening, I tell him that he’s my FPA—my FAVORITE Porch Attendant. He always gently kisses me on the cheek when he gets out of the car and tells me that he loves me. Then, he declares with gusto, “Let’s go get those customers!” or he says, “Customer service—to the glory of God!” And off he goes…covered in glow-in-the-dark outerwear.
Since “Front Porch Attendant” is a mouthful, and “FPA” sounds like a military acronym, at home we affectionately call Tim “Cart Man.” Cart Man is a natural organizer, a socializer, and a hard worker. He is “in his zone” when he’s performing his job. He loves it. He’s great at it. And he works with passion—and intentionality—to the good of his neighbor and to the glory of God. Tim doesn’t just obtain a sense of dignity from his work, he imparts dignity to his work.
No Little People
In his book No Little People, Francis Schaeffer states:
“The Scripture emphasizes that much can come from little if the little is truly consecrated to God. There are no little people and no big people in the true spiritual sense, but only consecrated and unconsecrated people.”
Then Schaeffer goes on to discuss,
“But if a Christian is consecrated, does this mean he will be in a big place instead of a little place? The answer, the next step, is very important: as there are no little people in God’s sight, so there are no little places. To be wholly committed to God in the place where God wants him—this is the creature glorified (emphasis mine).”
I have to confess. I wasn’t wild about this Cart Man job at first. It seemed so—menial. But, once again, God has used Tim’s life and his faithful witness to reorder my disordered thinking. Having 47 chromosomes doesn’t make one a little person. And being a Cart Man is not a little place. Tim exemplifies faithfulness—wholehearted commitment to God—in the way he carries out his duties in the place to which God has called him. Not only does he glorify God in this way, but Tim shines as Christ’s representative in this world. Tim is a consecrated man—living out a deeply meaningful life in the place to which God has called him.
I can get my head around the fact that “as there are no little people in God’s sight, so there are no little places”…for Tim. But what about me? Do I really believe that—for me? After almost ten years in a national ministry position, I voluntarily passed the leadership baton to another capable leader. My transition was as unexpected to me as it was to those who had worked alongside of me or benefited from the ministry. As a wise counselor friend said to me during the decision-making process that led to my departure, “This may be one of those times in life when God calls you to let go of one trapeze bar without knowing what the next one will be.” Six months later, I’m still airborne. Which brings me to the little conversations I have with myself:
- “Am I genuinely consecrated to God—for whatever he purposes for me to do?”
- “Will I even recognize the ‘place’ God wants me if I am only looking for ‘big’ places from a human vantage point?”
- “What if I never do anything again that ‘feels’ as important as what I just finished doing?”
No Little Places
I sense that this is a common human struggle—at least for those of us who are not as wise as Tim.
- Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom. Between changing diapers, fixing meals, car-pooling kids and cleaning up from the stomach bug—you feel like a little person in a little place.
- Perhaps you’re single and the world of marriage and family has passed you by, prompting you to feel like a little person in a little place.
- If you’re a working woman, but the career goals you once had now seem permanently elusive, you might feel like a little person in a little place.
- Maybe you’ve got an adult child with special needs—and while your friends are out enjoying “the freedom of their fifties”—you find yourself struggling with knowing how to meaningfully engage this phase of your life, tempting you to see yourself as a little person in a little place.
- Or, you could be a woman well-along-in-years, wondering what meaning your life has since your husband died and you moved into Assisted Living—despairing, “I am a little person in a little place.”
Remember Schaeffer’s words, “…as there are no little people in God’s sight, so there are no little places. To be wholly committed to God in the place where God wants him—this is the creature glorified.” Are you what the Lord Jesus wants you to be—set apart to him—wherever he wants you to be? If so, you are “in your zone.” Just like Cart Man. If not, won’t you ask God to help you to understand what it means to be consecrated to him? Won’t you ask God to make you willing to embrace whatever place he providentially supplies for your consecrated living? As Jesus so gently reminds us, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). For Cart Man that means “Customer service—to the glory of God.” What does it mean for you?
Steph served as Director of Mission to North America’s (MNA) Special Needs Ministries from 2007 to 2016. She continues to work for MNA Special Needs Ministries as a Consultant and also serves on the Lancaster Christian Council on Disability (LCCD). Steph is the author of Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability and All Things Possible: Calling Your Church Leadership to Disability Ministry. She has been published in ByFaith magazine, Focus on the Family magazine, and Breakpoint online magazine and has produced a Christian Education DVD series based on Same Lake, Different Boat. Steph and her husband, Fred, have been married for 33 years. They have two deeply loved adult sons: Fred and Tim, the younger of whom has Down syndrome.