As Jake and I walked out of the Social Security office, I held the door for the lady behind me.
She remarked, “I have one of those, too.”
My puzzled expression must have caused her to continue.
“Life with them is really hard, isn’t it?” she said as she nodded towards my son.
I didn’t reply.
I turned my attention to Jake. It was obvious that he was upset and agitated.
Jake wasn’t very happy with me. He was bemoaning the fact that I had told the Social Security agent that our family will be returning to South Africa in March. Jake began chastising me under his breath in the office. However, when we reached the door leading outside, Jake couldn’t keep quiet any longer.
He blurted, “I don’t want to talk about South Africa and March! Time is going too fast! I don’t want you to talk about that!”
I understand my sweet son. I understand.
Leaving family and friends in the States in March will be like tearing a huge chunk of our hearts away and leaving the fractured remnants behind – again. Our family has done this leave family-and-friends-to-return-to-South-Africa before. We’ve ripped and shredded our hearts many times in the past fourteen-year span since moving to South Africa in 2006.
So, no. I wasn’t perturbed about Jake’s cries, groans and outburst.
But, for some reason, the lady behind me was chagrined by my son’s behavior. Jake seemed to remind her of someone in her family. I’m sure she was attempting to show empathy for me. I get that.
However, you will never ever, ever, ever hear me say of my autistic children, ‘I have two of those….’
Jake and Caleb are not objects.
They are not things.
They are far more to me than any state of matter.
Jake and Caleb are my children.
Yes, they are autistic.
Yes, they have obstacles and struggles that are unique, different, and all their own.
But, hey. Many people, in fact, hundreds of thousands of people have obstacles and challenges in their lives, too.
We’re all working through something at some time.
For me, I count my children as fearfully and wonderfully made. My children are helping me understand how precious and unique are the souls of all people – not just the most bright and the most beautiful – to our Lord. My God created Jake and Caleb for a specific time, a specific place, and for a specific purpose. I am certain of it.
This morning, I kept my mouth shut tight as the woman spoke to me. Her words made me angry and vexed. I admit it. Yet, I also know she must be walking her own unique journey. It’s not for me to judge why she said what she did to me. She was attempting to show compassion in some way.
But that doesn’t mean I must receive what she said.
I won’t do that.
My children are too precious, too important, too wondrous to me to judge them as commodoties – even when they’re having a hard time.
And we all have hard, difficult times now and again.
Jake was having one of those despairing moments this morning.
I’ll have one of my own one day later.
You probably will, too.
And when we do, let’s remember. We aren’t one of ‘those.’ We are one of our Lord’s amazingly wondrous people who was made to not only receive his comforting, blessed love, but to shine his loving light of grace and beauty into this dark, despairing world, too.
Paul agreed. He wrote:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
New International Version, Ephesians 2:10
Let’s get to it, then.
Even on our hard days.
Let’s keep loving and living into our God-given purpose.
Amen and Amen.