The first Easter after we received my son’s autism diagnosis, I remember watching him anxiously attempting to stay a step ahead of his cousins as they all ran around the yard searching for eggs, plastic pails bouncing and spilling as little legs bent low to peek into downspouts and under bushes.
By Minnesota standards, it was a “nice” Easter, meaning there wasn’t snow on the ground. Optimistic plants were beginning to peek out of the soil, and the sun shone brightly. But none of the warmth of that day reached my heart.
I don’t remember much except the overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t cut out for this curve ball. Hearing my precious brown-eyed boy screeching in dismay that a certain egg had been found by someone else, and not knowing what to do to make it better, I watched my husband stoop down and try to reach him, while I did what I had gotten pretty good at doing over the past few months—giving myself a serious mental beatdown.
You’re too quiet, too passive, and too laid back—I heard—to be a special needs mom. You won’t be able to advocate for him. You won’t be emotionally strong enough to withstand the judgmental looks and unspoken words of acquaintances and strangers. You will embarrass yourself and ruin your family.
You are doomed.
Doomed to be uncomfortable. Doomed to live every day at the end of your rope. And, most of all, doomed to fail this child who desperately needs you to be so much more than you are.
Every time Easter rolls around again, I remember that moment—how badly I just wanted to find a quiet corner to curl my sorry self into a ball and NOT celebrate Easter. Why, I asked myself, should I sing hallelujah right now?
Years later, here we are closing in on another Easter. I know the competitive nature that drove my little boy to collect the most eggs way back when will again drive him to participate in the egg hunt this year, in all his gangly-legged, preteen glory.
But this year, I can’t wait to watch him. One of these days, he’s going to think he’s too cool to hunt Easter eggs. I get it now—how these moments are little gifts.
The shift over time was subtle, changing seasons sending drops and downpours of grace here and there.
Over the years we’ve slogged through swamps and discovered that beautiful things often live in murky places. We’ve drenched our fears and tears in truth and clung to mercy.
And this year, I can’t help but feel thankful. Thankful for a happy, healthy son—one who is getting ridiculously close to reaching eye level with me. And thankful to be okay when I wasn’t sure we ever would be.
Now I know better.
Because of a man who walked dirty streets and bent low to look into blinded eyes and clouded minds and said, I came to give you life. And not just life, ABUNDANT life. (John 10:10, paraphrased)
Because of a teacher who sat on a mountainside and shared the upside-down ways of the Kingdom of Heaven and promised, When you’re lower than low, I’m closer than your next breath. When you’re lost and hungry, I will bring you home and fill you up. And when you love like I love, expect to see a whole lot more of me in your life. (Matthew 5:3-8, paraphrased)
Because of a friend who said, Father, forgive them. For all their fears and doubts and mixed-up priorities. (Luke 23:34, paraphrased)
Because of a Savior who took my pain and everyone else’s and said, It’s done. (John 19:30, paraphrased)
Because of a Redeemer who smashed the head of the serpent, who crushed the lying thief who tried to steal our joy and peace, then walked out of a tomb and said, This battle you’re fighting? I’ve already overcome it. In my name, you are able to do more than you ever imagined. So don’t be afraid. I’m always with you. ALWAYS. (Matthew 28:20, paraphrased)
I’ve learned to be thankful for a diagnosis I feared and misunderstood. Thankful for autism.
If you are in that place—trying to connect the beautiful child in front of you with a diagnosis that seems so ugly, or trying to wrap your head around some other curve ball—reach out and grab your serving of grace. And then come back for seconds. And thirds.
You may not feel like you’ll grow into this. Today the shoe doesn’t fit, and you’re not sure you’re going to make it.
It’s okay. Fill your plate with grace and simply know that one day you’ll look back and see: You are enough because grace is here. You were enough because grace was there. And you really are going to be okay.
Don’t ever stop grabbing grace by the hand. Our inadequacies are drowned by the Good Friday blood that ran harder and faster than any of our tears.
Life is going to be hard. The curve balls will keep bending us low. But life is also going to be abundant and amazing and overflowing with mercy.
Oh yes, we’re going to make it.
April is Autism Awareness Month. To read more of Jen’s series, “Wanted: Stories of Life and Autism,” visit her blog, www.storiesinthetrees.com.