I don’t always show it. I don’t often talk about it. Yet, if you ever asked me about it, I would admit that I don the heavy and confining coat of uncertainty, unease, and apprehension when I consider the future cares and needs of my two autistic sons.
It’s not a comfortable coat.
There are times when I am draped in its worry. And I don’t like that.
Our family has walked with autism for a while now. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disability which affects how the brain develops and processes information. Autistic children experience communication, social, and behavioral challenges and delays. And as is true for our family, autism presents itself in very unique ways from person to person. As I mentioned, autism isn’t a new road for us. We’ve worked tirelessly over the years to address the speech delays, social challenges, and behavioral self-management issues with our 15-year old Caleb and 16-year old Jake.
And we’ve definitely made progress.
But, we’re not done yet.
To be fully functional, confident and independent enough to transition into the adult world one day, Jake and Caleb need more time, more support, and more opportunity to grow and develop. They also need a community that will cheer and encourage them as they take these significant and noteworthy steps towards independence. It’s a risky undertaking for them both. My two younger sons need scaffolding support – more so than most children their age – to accomplish their goals. Scaffolding is a process in which we model and demonstrate how to solve different problems and tasks, and then offer our boys support as needed. When I contemplate all of my sons’ needs, the heavy, overcoat of uncertainty, unease, and apprehension can become especially oppressive at times. It’s a difficult coat to wear.
So, I don’t.
I throw this burdensome apparel off and look to my God for answers that I do not possess for my children’s future.
Yet, the truth of the matter is that I’ve never had the answers.
The majority of my parenting life with Jake and Caleb has been me calling out to my God for His guidance, His direction, and His unwavering help – especially as we raised these two kids on the mission field for the majority of their lives. Caleb was two years old and Jake was four years old when we began our mission journey in South Africa. I can tell you that living in a foreign country with two autistic children is not for the faint of heart. Yet, as I look back on the past 12 ½ years of living life here, I see our God’s guiding, protective, and loving hand upon Jake and Caleb again and again.
This is probably why I don’t wear that coat of uncertainty all the time.
John and I never made autism a big talking point in our family – we accepted it as part of God’s creation – just as we did our sons’ brown hair, our sons’ brown eyes, and our sons’ tall height. As I reflect upon these years, I am grateful to acknowledge that the blessings of our God regarding Jake and Caleb’s autism are far too numerous to count. If I could encourage any young family with autistic children, it would be to look for the blessings – small and large – that come with this neurodevelopmental disability.
Because the blessings are there.
How do I know?
Well, for one, as a follower of Christ, I believe that the LORD offers His blessings to us – no matter our station in life. As I have said, countless blessings have come to our family as we walked along the road of autism.
Scripture says this:
The Lord remembers us and will bless us:
He will bless his people Israel,
He will bless the house of Aaron,
He will bless those who fear the Lord—
small and great alike.
New International Version, Psalm 115: 12-13
What an amazing, heart-affirming, present and future truth for parents of autistic children and for us all – our Lord remembers us and will bless us.
The LORD is mindful of our autistic children and of us, as their parents.
The LORD sees into our hearts and minds and considers our cares. The LORD bestows His divine favor in our lives – no matter what kind of disabilities and challenges we possess. He knows what worries we have about our children’s social needs. He sympathizes with what keeps us awake at night as we consider their speech and developmental delays. Amazingly, His heart is inclined to our prayers for every aspect of our children’s well-being.
And then He responds. He blesses us with His mercy, His peace, His comfort, and His love. Yes, our LORD remembers us and will bless us – right where we are in the middle of any uncertain and scary future prospect for our children.
To bless means to make holy, to be provided for, and to invoke the divine favor of our LORD. Ultimately, it is our LORD’s desire to see us all be made complete in Christ. And isn’t that what we most want for our children – especially our autistic children – that they would experience wholeness and completeness in Jesus Christ?
I know I do.
Thus, I pray for my children.
I pray for all kinds of blessings to be bestowed on Jake and Caleb – social and relational, temporal and spiritual, solid and substantial and more, more, more to be poured into my children’s hearts and minds by the glorious redemptive power of Jesus Christ.
Yes, I want my LORD to remember my children and to bless them with what He believes they need most from Him – Himself.
So, this is why I refuse to don the cheerless coat of uncertainty, unease, and apprehension regarding my children for any length of time.
It’s just not a helpful, wardrobe choice.
Instead, I choose to hold onto the affirming truth that my LORD remembers and will remember, blesses, and will continue to bless my children with exactly what they need today and into each day of the future – and blesses what I do, too, as their mom.
And this is the warm and affirming coat of comfort and blessing that I choose to wear, today.