I’ve read a lot of articles lately in regards to the church and the special needs community. Reading the comments in these articles is heartbreaking, the majority of people agreeing that’s why they didn’t go to church and why some even left the church. Someone shared a video with me. It was a mother pouring out her heart about raising a child with severe autism and I got what she was saying. I knew what she meant, I knew what she was feeling and had experienced all her feelings. The one thing that stood out to me the most was that she said, “I’ve never really been a religious person and I even gave prayer a try and my son still has autism, so what’s the point of prayer” that statement wrecked me, shattered my heart into a million pieces for her.
I couldn’t help but start pondering about where I was in life when my son was around her child’s age. Going through all the emotions that she was going through. Let me tell you when you get an autism diagnosis for one of your children, you know from that moment on, you will never have a “normal” life. Autism is forever and there is no “cure”. All the dreams you had for your family and the way you saw your life going have been tossed out the window. It’s devastating. You will go through a grieving process. You will grieve for the life you thought were going to have and that doesn’t mean you love your child any less.
I grew up in a Christian home, I was raised in the church. My life is centered around Jesus. I can tell you, I had all kinds of questions for God. Why my child, why us, it not fair and it’s not right. I could list a million questions I asked and the statements I made during my talks with God. But, you get the picture. To be honest, I didn’t develop a regular prayer life until autism happened to us.
We were thrown into hours upon hours a week of speech, OT, PT, and ABA therapy. Along with other health problems other than autism. My son had severe allergies, which led to asthma and terrible ear infections. He also developed a seizure disorder. Between therapies, all the doctor’s appointments and finding time for your child to just get to be a kid, it’s exhausting. I would do a lot of my talking with God in the car. That’s where we spent the majority of our time it seemed.
I used to beg Jesus to take away his autism. At some point, I’m not sure when I finally knew the Lord was telling me “No”. When I understood that, Jesus started working on me and healing the brokenness I had. He was mending my heart, spirit, and mind. He started giving me new hopes and dreams for my family. Yes, life was going to be different than I imagined but it was going to be an amazing life.
I started thanking the Lord for my son’s life. We fought hard and prayed hard to bring him into the world safely, him being here is a miracle. My prayers were changing too. I wasn’t so hung up on “take the autism away” anymore. I was praying for his quality of life. I was praying for him to talk, praying for him to potty train, praying for him to learn to write his name, learn to read, the list goes on. I remember when doctors told us he may never do any of those things, thinking “well you’re not God, so you don’t know all of that”.
I remember the day God showed me he was answering my prayers. I was still praying fervently for all those things. He stopped me in the middle of my prayers to realize that my child was talking, he was potty trained, he was learning to write his name, he was reading, his meltdowns had become less and he had stopped having seizures completely. Was he doing everything he needed to be doing on “grade level” No? But the fact was, he was doing all of these things. The Lord had set in motion all the things he needed for my child to get to where he is. My problem with not being able to see the Lord answering my prayers was because I was looking for them to be answered how I wanted them to be answered. In my mind, he was still going to “catch up” to his peers or just be a little behind. But that’s just not the case. He still has severe autism and always will. He was doing all the things I was praying for and still does. His skills are still behind for his age, but he’s had a slow and steady progression. It’s purely amazing to see the work the Lord is doing in him.
You see, we tend to get so caught up in God answering our prayers the exact way we want them to be answered, that we miss hearing and seeing his answer. God always answers us, sometimes it’s “No”, sometimes it’s “Yes”, and sometimes it’s “Wait”. I’ve been told all of those when praying for different things. Being told “No” is the hardest, especially when it’s something you’re praying about your child.
God loves us and wants the best for us. We all love hearing the “Yes” from God. But what if the “Yes” isn’t the way you thought it was going to be. Will you still praise him? What if God tells you “No”, will you still praise him? What if God tells you “Wait”, will you still praise him? Will you still love God, will you still draw close to him, will you continue to seek him out? The same God that tells you “No” and “Wait” is the same God that can give you the comfort and peace you so desperately need. God doesn’t want to destroy our life and praying to God isn’t about always getting what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. It’s about following Christ no matter what. Yes, I have a child with severe autism and yes I have found so much joy and peace in our life. That joy and peace have come from Christ alone.
If you’re a parent that’s facing any type of diagnosis with your child, or if you’re facing any kind of troubling times with your child, no matter your child’s age, know this, God loves your child more than you do and wants the best for him.
I cling to that fact. I know how much I love my son, so the love God has for my son is indescribable. I know God chose me to be this amazing child’s mother. He has such a pure heart and loves going to church, he especially enjoys the music. Whatever plans the Lord has in store for his life, they will be amazing. God is with him every step of the way. I can’t wait to see where God continues to lead us on the journey through life with autism.