Doing Justice Series: Justice for the Misfits

Today’s guest post is by Lisa Delay, a delightful spiritual director and friend who will be leading the spiritual direction sessions at the Renew & Refine Retreat for Writers.

"Do I have a disease?"

That was the question my 12 year old son asked me as I was grilling burgers outside. His query stopped me mid burger flip.

"No, honey, you don’t have a disease."

"I’m not sick?"

"No. Why do you think you’re sick?"

"Well….I don’t know. Why am I…like this?"

A lump caught in my throat. My son was piecing together his life experience. He had figured out that he wasn’t "normal." He saw the difference. It was starting to bother him.

I choked back a throaty half-sob that was busting loose and said, "Well, Nathan, you have Autism."

"I do?" He sounded a little hurt.

I thought he would have picked up on his situation somehow by now from all the special interventions, therapies, and meetings about him and in front of him where we would speak openly about him and his related issues.

But, then I sensed something deeper going on. This was about identity. This was about worth. This was a new recognition of apartness. Nathan was walking through a tough patch of self-discovery and navigating his sense of being "the other."

So I went for broke, "Yes. You do. That makes you different, but we all have struggles that make us feel like that. We all have different struggles, and that’s okay."

"It is?" he said.

"Yes. That’s regular life. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re just fine the way you are."

"Oh," he said. He was still sorting it all out. So am I.

Do we all really have "different struggles"? Maybe only in a certain sense. Sure, we each come at life with our own peculiarities or challenges, but maybe we all really want the same thing: To be known and loved how we are already. We want to feel like we truly fit in and the differences are good things not bad ones. This is the realm of Justice.

Love and Justice go together. They must. In Justice we are concerned with putting things to rights, but not all things can be made to fit together tightly. We are misfits. Then Love comes down.

Love washes everything over with acceptance and grace. Homecoming. It makes the Justice work and not warp into something about revenge or retribution. There is no true Love without Justice and no true Justice without Love.

In those cases where someone is left out, sidelined, or marginalized for not fitting in well, Justice makes a path and Love ensures that traversing the path happens well.

How do I enact Justice for a son who never gets invited to birthday parties, play dates, or sleepovers by normally-developing peers? I make a way, with Love.

Last year Nathan literally cried into his birthday cake because he didn’t have friends and gifts at a party to celebrate his birthday like everyone else. I hadn’t realize that he wanted a party. We had taken a family trip instead. But he did, and it broke his heart when he realized it was just the four of us and some cake, ice cream and a few gifts. So this year, it’s going to be different.

Love will make a way. Generosity, in fact. We’re letting Nathan be himself and access others in a way that he enjoys. He’s a passionate model railroader and soon we are hosting an Open House where he can display and run his trains. Visitors will come to his "museum" and he’ll share his passion. He will be the gift. The line of "other" will be erased, at least for the afternoon. Plus, plenty of tasty treats will be had by all.

The invitations to this event extend to a wide swath of people, and even to those who’ve overlooked him or sidelined him from their circle. Why? Because Love doesn’t give up when Justice is concerned and Love finds a way. Justice puts things to rights. Nathan will win the day in due Justice.

We invite you to view photos, video, and reflections from Nathan’s special day on my blog here. And you can wish him a happy birthday too.

About Today’s Guest Blogger

Lisa Colón DeLay (M.A. Religion/Spiritual Formation) works as a Director of Communications, writes, and serves as a spiritual guide to leaders, creators, and communicators for spiritual growth, healing, and increased God-awareness. She reaches out for the sake of Justice to inmates in a Federal Prison setting and to families in the intellectually disabled community. Follow her and her adventures on Twitter, Facebook, or at her blog.

About the “Doing Justice” Series

For 2013, we’ll spend each Friday looking at a new story about the ways someone is doing justice or acting justly. Christianity is a religion about action. Beliefs are important, but if those beliefs don’t translate into concrete action that reshapes how we live, it’s literally all in our heads. Using Matthew 25 and Micah 6:8 as our guides, we’ll be sharing stories that illustrate what acting justly could look like today.

How to Follow This Series

For starters, make sure you do two things:

  1. Subscribe to my blog (see the links at the top of the center column).
  2. Subscribe to my e-newsletter where I’ll share updates about the series.

Write Your Own Story…

Contact me at edcyzewski (at) gmail (dot) com with a 2-4 sentence pitch for your guest post. Some guidelines:

  • I’m loosely interpreting “doing justice” along the lines of Matthew 25, though feel free to offer your own angle.
  • Keep the pitch short so I can reply faster!
  • I can’t repost an existing post, lest Google penalizes me.
  • Make sure it’s a story, not a theology lesson.

13 thoughts on “Doing Justice Series: Justice for the Misfits

  1. Pingback: Our Open House Adventure | Lisa Colón DeLay

  2. Kevin Haggerty

    As a parent (and really, just as a human being), this breaks my heart. Lisa, I didn’t know you had an autistic son. God bless you for the way you love and support your son in his everyday struggle. I will pray for you and for your family. I will specifically be praying that God brings Nathan some amazing friends who love him and accept him for who he is.

    1. lisa delay


      Your prayers mean a great deal to me. I love to hear that I am lifted up in prayer. I sense the Spirit and am filled with the grace of his strength in what can be heartbreaking days in our family. I am thankful also that God gave us Nathan. Nathan actually means “gift”….weird huh?

      But now I am realizing more that he’s not just our gift but all we come in contact with….even across many miles (internet!)

      As he gets old the differences are more pronounced and peer friends are much harder to find. Teen years are supposed to be “cool” right?…not a time when you hang out with special needs kids!

      (One of our friends dropped by with a gift for Nathan. So kind. He mentioned that his son wants to set up a train layout too. His boy is about 18 months older. He’s a great kid but it’s pretty clear that friendship is unlikely. He had no interest in dropping by with his dad) :(

      But I have hope! More now b/c of you. thank you!

    1. lisa delay

      Yes. Thank you Jennifer.

      Since writing this, I’ve come to realize this sort of idea is helpful for for normally developing children…and perhaps the rest of us too. Instead of thinking about what is missing or lacking, use our passions as gifts…of ourselves… and find many ways to bring that out.


  3. Michael Tyler

    From your first aentence, Mom do I have….. to the …..he is the gift, your message is engaging and filled with love. This is what Jesus asked us to do. In an often referred to Post Christian culture, the Truth comes through with stories like yours, shared the way you are able to. Thx. M

    1. lisa delay

      Hi, Michael,

      Thank you. I think you’re right about stories. They can cut to the truth. I’m grateful Ed has encourage the narrative element in this series. Sometime I “stay too much in my head” and I forget their power, even for myself, let along is what I try to say with my writing.
      Wonderful to hear from you. My heart is warmed. :)

  4. Duane Scott

    I don’t know you Lisa, but I’m about to.

    This story compells me to read everything on your site.

    This just broke my heart and God bless you for loving the way you do.

  5. Ramona

    Love this! Beautiful! (Just now seeing it thanks to a tweet from my friend, Jennifer, up above.) (My oldest son has autism and similar struggles with making sense of it all, btw.)

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