It is not unlike my smart five year old son to apply his favorite story details to our conversations. I quite enjoy it, but no interjection has caused me to think like his recent use of a Bible story:
“Mom, do you think you were born for such a time as this, like Esther?” (This is a reference to the book of Esther chapter 4.)
A few silent moments passed and then I said, “Yes. Perhaps I was, buddy.”
This conversation took place just a few months after the same son, Jeremiah, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I cannot know whether or not he realized the emotional turmoil I faced daily, or if his interjection was thoughtfully planned or just the result of a whim. But I do know that it caused me to stop and consider the hand of God in the midst of a life-altering reality.
In the following hours, I thought about the unique ways in which God has prepared me for parenting Jeremiah. I considered that my first job following college graduation involved teaching a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder in a one-on-one setting. During that year the mysterious world of Autism began to unfold in front of me as I learned about the gifts of this unique and valuable person, as well as the daily challenges he faced. A few years later, I taught in a classroom setting and had the same student, as well as others who were similar to him. These instances were not simply coincidental, but I think can be counted as providential. God prepared those good works in advance (Ephesians 2:10,) with multiple purposes in mind: refinement of my character, development for those students, and preparation for another, lifelong task in parenthood.
At a women’s gathering my church hosted, a speaker encouraged the attendees through Psalm 144. Verse 1 reads: “Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” The speaker encouraged us that instead of questioning why we face a particular battle, or difficulty, we should be grateful for the ways in which He’s prepared us for it.
Do you see the implication? He doesn’t keep us from the fight. Instead, He trains us for it. And, yes, I do consider a battleground to be a fitting parallel to parenthood. In fact, He is still training me for my unique parenting role, and I am confident that I will never outgrow my need of Him as my Commander.
Along this unique and winding path, the Words of Life provide consistent nourishment. One particular source is from the book of Hebrews:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and
assurance about what we do not see. - Hebrews 11:1
I have been well-acquainted with this verse for quite some time, but I grip it more firmly today. It reminds me that God clearly desires for me to abandon any sense of despair and cling to him and his ability to do what only He can do: heal and restore. And I am learning too that He has invited me and many others to join Him in the miraculous. With every milestone my son achieves I spontaneously erupt in celebration. We do not take proper use of a fork or conversational speech for granted. For some including our Jeremiah, they are the result of months of therapy and daily guidance. I think of this as a parable for our eternal hope. When we fix our eyes on eternal things, and fully trust the Author of Life Himself, we have a certain hope that produces the peace necessary to do the work He intends for us to do.
I am reminded of the words of Elisabeth Elliot, wife of slain missionary Jim Elliot, “The ‘whys’ that screamed themselves at me day and night could not be silenced, but I could live with them if I simply went on and did the next thing.” In our grief, we must resolve to trust God with every fiber of our being, and devote ourselves to doing the next right thing.
As we advocate for Jeremiah, all begins and ends with prayer. We ask God to lead us to the right therapies, resources and people to bring about healing and greater wholeness. We ask God to protect him as he spends significantly more time away from us than I would have chosen for my young child. We ask God to open Jeremiah’s mind to understand the scriptures (a prayer I borrowed from Luke 24:35) and to give him a heart that willingly responds to Him. The emotional turmoil we have endured is unlike anything else I have experienced, yet the nearness of God, and His answers to specific needs is also unlike anything I have experienced. He truly is a good, good Father.
I recently read the bold words of Joan of Arc, (who, by the way, faced many fierce and literal battles) “I am not afraid. I was made for this.”
Jeremiah was right. I was made to be his momma. Not because I was born with a specific set of skills, but because God rescued me from my sin, and set me on a journey, equipping me for each twist and turn. I am tremendously grateful to Him.
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