One family’s Christmas at the movies…and our culture?

481-EmilyColsonMax.jpgI had the honor of meeting Emily Colson at last year’s Accessibility Summit at McLean Bible Church, where she was serving as the keynote speaker.

Emily is an author, speaker, and mother to Max, her 23 year-old son with autism. She wrote an award-winning book, Dancing With Max, in which she and her father (Chuck Colson) shared the struggle and beauty of life with Max. Emily is an extraordinarily gracious and passionate advocate for families impacted by disability within both the church and the larger culture, a valued colleague, and someone with whom we hope to collaborate in the future.

I’m not often shocked by the level of depravity in our culture. I’ve treated kids who have murdered other children, kids who are adjudicated sex offenders and kids who have been victims of truly unimaginable abuse. I was shocked by the story Emily related this past week in a blog post circulating the Internet about her experience at the movies on Christmas Day with her stepmother and Max.

I strongly encourage you to read Emily’s post, if you haven’t already. Max became increasingly distressed by the sensory stimulation during the movie and his request to leave was overheard by many in the theater. Here’s an excerpt…

After a minute of dust-flinging commotion, Max stood up beside me, with Patty soon to follow.

And the thunder grew louder.

It was applause for our exit. It was the sound of an angry mob chasing us away with their jeers and taunts.

“And don’t come back,” I heard as we slowly made our way down the stairs in the dark.

I tried to block Max from the view of the crowd, my every step labored, detached, brittle. I wanted to throw my arms around Max to remind him, and everyone else, of just how deeply he is loved. But I couldn’t make my arms work. As we neared the exit, passing center stage, I heard a voice from the back of the theater. It was a man shouting over the thunder of the crowd like a crack of lightning.

“He’s retarded.”

I work with kids and families every day with “hidden disabilities” like autism…kids who struggle with sensory processing, with self-control…kids who are bullied on a daily basis, families who live in isolation because they fear the judgment of others if they try as a family to engage in the types of activities and experiences (like church) that are part of the rhythm of life for other families.

I had no idea it was this bad.

We have so far to go as a culture in demonstrating grace to one another. We have so far to go in our understanding of the experience of families impacted by autism, trauma, mental illness and other developmental disabilities. We have so far to go as a culture in recognizing the extent of our depravity and sinfulness. Emily and Max were at the movies on Christmas. It’s more than a little unsettling that my kids are growing up in a culture like this one. All the more remarkable that Jesus chose to come and live among us for the purpose of redeeming us and this messed up world.

Several questions entered my mind…

I wonder how many people sitting in the theater that day had been in church at some time during the preceding 24 hours?

I wonder if any of the people applauding in the theater had been in church that day or the day before?

I wonder how people from my church would have reacted had they been sitting in the theater on Christmas?

I wonder how I would have reacted if I was in the theater with my family that day?

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 (ESV)

I would hope and pray God would see fit to use the Colson’s experience to open the eyes and hearts of many in our culture to the needs of families impacted by autism and other disabilities. I’m sure Emily and Max would be honored if everyone who hears of their story would demonstrate Christ’s love to someone experiencing the effects of disability at their next opportunity.


2014Thanks to all of our readers for making this blog such a success in 2013! Our team at Key Ministry very much appreciates your willingness to share our resources with others interested in the things we care about. Here are our ten most popular blog posts in 2013…help us get the word out to churches interested in sharing Christ’s love with families of children with mental illness, trauma or developmental disabilities in 2014!

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About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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3 Responses to One family’s Christmas at the movies…and our culture?

  1. Ann Holmes says:

    It is truly shocking! But, even more stunning is what you noted – that Jesus chose to enter such a world knowing full well how great was the darkness! God is going to use this pain to build His Kingdom! My heart hurts far more for the people living in such darkness like those in the theater than for Patty, Emily, and Max! At least they don’t carry that deep darkness with them!


  2. That is unbelievable!!!!!


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