A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith


Look at me

posted by Linda G. Howard

With the stir of the new movie, The Help, I’ve been reminded that the hardest part about directing a choir of mentally challenged people is teaching them to look at me.  In the twenty years that I have been a choir director for persons who are developmentally delayed for The Special Gathering, this has been a constant and consistent problem. 

In the 1960′s when the Jesus Movement was sweeping across America, my husband and I were swept into the miraculous wonder of the Holy Spirit’s healing touch.  Though I was very young, almost daily, I had the privilege of praying for people.  Occasionally, these were African-American women who were visiting our home.  With this wonderful population of women, I was always faced with the same problem.  They refused to look at me. 

No matter how bold they had been in conversation, when it came time to pray, they all took the same posture.  They would sit with their heads pressed to their chests and their hands clasped in their laps, too timid to move or speak. 

I felt that the Lord told me that part of what was needed for them was to insist that they raise their heads and look at me, eye to eye.  At times, I had to physically force their heads upward.  Amazingly, once these women began to look up, there was a visual transformation that happened every time.  They seemed to come alive with joy and acceptance.  Laughing and crying at the same time, they would say, usually in a reverent whisper, “I’m free!”

I wasn’t totally surprised to also have this problem in the mentally challenged community.  This cloistered, sub-culture is made up of individuals who are told all their lives,  ”Sit down.  Be quiet and don’t draw attention to yourself.” 

Even if those words are not spoken, they are told that a million times in their lives in a multitude of different ways.  I remember a funeral that I attended.  The father of one our members had died.  At that time, Nora was in her mid-thirties.  She is a high functioning, well-spoken, sophisticated woman.  Several times before and after the funeral service, her mother, brother and two sisters gathered in a circle.  Comforting each other,  they joined in a large group hug.  Nora was never a part of the hug.  She stood on the outside grasping her arms close to her chest, weeping alone. 

I don’t care how tonally correct the members of the choir sing but I do care whether they look at me or not.  For some of the members, this is especially difficult. For it is not only part of the mentally challenged community culture to not look people in the eye; but it is also part of their disability.  Yet, I have never had one person who has not learned to overcome his training and disability.  They have all learned to look at me. 

Each new member thinks I’m incredibly horrible when I harp on them, not allowing them to look away for a second.  Usually by the time they have trained themselves to look at me, another person will join the choir. Then she sees that I have to go through the same thing with the new, fledgling performer.  Almost, without exception, she will say in a patient, mentoring voice, “You can do it.  I had to learn and you can too.”

There is an element of self-worth that is essential in maturing in the Christian faith.  Through Christ’s sacrifice, God makes us his children, not his slaves or lackeys.  Perhaps the greatest joy I have when the choir performs is not the musical quality or the correct enunciation of all the words but 12 sets of eyes that meet mine and look at me, eye to eye.  Equal partners in ministry, holding our heads and hearts high. 

It makes me want to have a large, group hug with no one left outside grasping their arms.

Have you found that making eye contact is important to self-worth?  What are some other signs of a good self-worth?



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment maeveangel

    It breaks my heart to think of Nora not being included in the group hugs of her grieving family…but I am certain the Holy Spirit & angels were with her then & now. So much love! Thank you, Linda for sharing your gifts & adventures with the rest of us.

    • http://specialgathering.wordpress.com Linda G. Howard

      Thank you for your comment. You have encouraged me.

Previous Posts

The Choice that Changed Everything--a sermon for the mentally challenged community
The choice that changed everything Nehemiah 9:17 Central Theme: Man choices to sin and God chooses to be gracious. A ream of paper has 500 sheets--not more and not less. A foot is 12 inches--not more and not less. There are many absolutes in our lives. There is a couple of absolutes that totally

posted 10:48:30pm Aug. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Friendship Evangelism
For many years, I taught a seminar called "Friendship Evangelism."  The basis of this teaching was that people are much more susceptible to hear the promises of the Gospel, if they know and respect you.  We all have a knowledge of the friendship of David and Jonathan from the Bible.  Even if we o

posted 9:12:04am Aug. 16, 2014 | read full post »

Overcoming Fatigue
After four days of Camp Agape, my children laugh that I'm in my Camp Coma for about a week.  While it's humorous there is a lot of truth in their designation of my abilities.  There are some things that I've learned from others and from my own experiences regarding physical fatigue. First, this

posted 6:37:05am May. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Explaining grace
In the past weeks, I've been going over some of the key words in our covenant relationship with God.  Perhaps one of the most important words we use is grace. Most of us have learned and maybe we even remember God's Riches At Christ's Expense This is great explanation of grace and

posted 9:48:06pm May. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Familiar customs and limited means
When the Biblical young woman, Ruth, married into a Jewish family she understood little about their ways, God or religion.  This is my supposition; but I base the conjecture on facts.  Moabites were shunned by the Israelis.  Decades before, Moab wronged the wandering tribes who desired to trav

posted 7:47:06am May. 20, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.