For some of us, the pieces have been patched and restored and there is wholeness where there was none before. But some of us are walking wounded, barely hanging on and wondering if there is hope. We have a choice. We can either be completely shattered by bitterness, depression and anger or we can lay the fragments before the One who can take the sharp slivers and jagged pieces and create a beautiful, productive life. Here is the conclusion to John's story.
When John was ten, he was sullen and moody and difficult and so was I. But I was no longer proud. I had seen too much of my own wretchedness. I was broken, squashed on the Potter's wheel. My dear friend Amy (see yesterday's comments) saw that I was losing the battle to be good and strong and loving. She called another friend and we met together for prayer. It was then that God began reshaping the clay of my spirit into a whole new vessel.
Stuart and John and I met with a family counselor. We took with us the test results from three years prior. The psychologist read through the reports and listened to our story and said, “You’re dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome. Your parenting is innovative and creative (I did not tell her about the swearing or the clenched teeth) and I don’t know that there is a whole lot I can tell you that you aren’t already doing.” Asperger's Sydrome. With those words, the pieces of the puzzle flew into place after a decade of wondering what we were dealing with. We were not sorrowful but relieved.
I found an online support group and learned that Aspie kids sleep poorly, that they like small spaces (which is why John loved my closet) and hate change. I connected with parents who understood what it is like to listen to daily monologues about Lord of the Rings or Battlezone. I trundled my stack of parenting books off to the Salvation Army. I learned to discipline in tiny increments. “If you talk like that again, you will lose two minutes of computer.” I learned to relax my standards, to offer mercy and extend grace. I learned to hug and joke and and love even if John was unlovable. I learned that if I did these things, he became lovable.
Today, John is happy. This is the one thing that has changed. He is still tenderhearted and funny and creative. He still has strong academic abilities and he still needs close supervision to keep him on task. Last week he went church with his button-down shirt on inside out. We have to check to see if he has shoes on and contacts in before he leaves the house. He stands in the kitchen and talks about Harry Potter while Lauren washes the dishes. He’s supposed to be helping but he forgets. I ask him to bring me Charlie’s shoes and he comes back empty handed and I ask him again and he brings me a comb. We laugh (usually) and he tries again. I don’t think about him learning to drive or going to college or leaving home. It stresses me out.
The entries in the family journal continue. Once he cut the "chickens" off top of his head because they were bothering him. I had to shave his head to repair the damage. He appeared in my bedroom at midnight wrapped in an orange blanket with his shorn head sticking out and explained, "I'm an insom-ni-monk." He put Charlie down for a nap one afternoon, "I put Charlie to sleep with 'The Song of Invigoration!'" And while helping me in the kitchen, "I did the impossible. I put ALL of lettuce into these two bags!" (He had smashed two heads of lettuce into two small ziplock bags and squeezed out all the air. Two heads of romaine reduced to the size of a baseball.)
I found this statement in a commentary that I was reading this morning and I think it applies here. One of the most common errors evident in the professing church today (is) triumphalism. It is our insistence that Jesus be now what the Bible says He will be and do then—in the future. We all wish to identify with the triumphant Jesus, who overthrows the wicked, and brings prosperity, peace, and freedom from pain to His people. But we do not wish to identify with the “suffering Savior.” I don't know how successfully John will venture into adulthood. I don't know if his story will be one of triumph from a worldly perspective. All I know is that before I fought and kicked against John's difficulties and now I don't. This is triumph in God's eyes.
One day, a long time ago, when we were having a rough day and I was disciplining and controlling because no child of mine was going to act that way, God said, "No. John is not yours. He’s mine." And, of course, He was right. God created John and He has a plan for him and He has been faithful to reveal it one grain at a time. So now there is peace. Now I can enjoy the gift and the wonder of raising this boy. John is a blessing. A great, great blessing. God knew what He was doing all along.