I Didn't Plan For An Autistic Child

By Lisa Hamel

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How my child’s “dysfunction” brought healing.

I promise in the future to write a more practical blog on how to parent a child with autism. Today, however, is from my heart. Because parenting is SO much about revealing our own heart issues, isn’t it?

I had other plans for my life at 19 and 20. I didn’t have any aspirations to be a mom. I was busy traveling the world singing. On one such trip, my world fell apart. Though I didn’t understand it fully at the time, I went through chemical depression. I had paranoia and I was in a distant country with dark spiritual forces at work. I spent the next 3 months of ministry in a state of intense fear and sorrow. I figured out how to cope with this new “normal” by just going numb, wondering if I would ever “feel” close to God again. God allowed 20+ years, 2 children and a series of tragedies to bring me back to a stronger version of that young girl.

Throughout the years I fought the idea of being a mom. I even overheard people say I probably wouldn't be a good mother. I thought I just didn't have "the mother gene." I loved my husband, I loved travel, and though the recording industry hadn't worked out for me, I didn't like how motherhood meant that so many things would be out of my control.

Finally, I acted out of obedience to a leap of faith that I believe God was calling me to. The Lord gave me a sense that my experience with my first child would be difficult. And THAT was a grace……

Along came Caius. Caius’ name means rejoice. He is the most intense, excitable young man who takes in life with a voracious appetite. It reminds me of me before my depression. Caius has autism, Asperger’s Syndrome as some call it.   He senses everything far more intensely than normal, so life is quite a ride. He was diagnosed at age 4 with sensory issues, so we spent a lot of his first years being annoyed and frustrated with his inability to cope. We didn't understand. All the parenting books just didn't work. We wanted time as a husband and wife. We wanted time as a family with his younger brother that wasn't constantly filled with conflict. We wanted our "idolized" view of family and life. I wanted peace and quiet to write music. We wanted more than 2 hours of sleep strung together!

Though these years weren’t without joy, they were also plagued with meltdowns, screaming, and harsh words as we walked out of stores, walked out of church services, and walked out of the principal’s office. By age 8, we knew there was more at work than mere sensory integration issues, so we continued to pursue answers.

One sunny, spring day after a great deal of testing and evaluation, a psychologist sat us down and told us our son has autism. As you can imagine, Mike and I went through a grieving process. As we became more educated, we realized that our son had been trying to please us. He'd been trying to rejoice as his namesake says - and simply couldn't succeed without wisdom from God and intervention. He couldn't live up to our standards. He wanted to connect with us but he couldn’t get beyond the walls of his autism.

And in this God began to open my eyes and began His healing work in my life. I realized that my son’s inability to live up to my standards was exactly how I had seen God for so long. This is how unable I am to live up to God's standards. How I miss the mark. I am sick. I am born with a condition that I cannot escape. Seeing God as this frustrated Father that I just couldn't please, this was one of the catalysts for my depression those many years ago.

This analogy pressed hard upon us as we came to a deeper, richer place of acceptance of what we can and cannot fix for our son. Of what we could and could not change about our reality. And here's the beautiful thing, God allowed this struggle (which our son is overcoming) and other tragedies in these years to free us. To reveal deeper issues emotionally and even physically which would have remained buried for decades had He not lovingly "stirred the pot". We can see His goodness in giving us this struggle.

You see, motherhood has brought me back to myself. I was drifting into shallow waters and I was so afraid that becoming a mom would make me lose myself (in the bad kind of way). But God knew that I was already a watered-down version of myself. He knows the real me and He knows the real you. For only Jesus can make us stronger, yet weaker; wiser, yet more teachable; older, yet younger; responsible, yet free spirited; and big-hearted, yet light-hearted women.  

And this is motherhood.

Oh friend and fellow mama - if I could just look you straight in the eye and speak these words to you. Your story is long and God is never absent from it. He is weaving. Always weaving. He is patient. He is intentional. He never wastes a talent. In fact, He may be jealous for them. And if not a single other person appreciates them, "waste" them on Jesus. Pour them out like an expensive perfume. (John 12:3) You are His and you have nothing to prove. He never wastes a tear. He counts them all and keeps them. (Psalm 56:8) And you CAN have joy no matter what is happening in your life, or the lives of your loved ones. 

Imagine your soul is a room. The only two that can enter are you and Jesus. If you are socially dependent like me, you may have spent years trying to drag in other people's problems, their choices, their heartaches, and their opinions of you. Maybe even their very selves (like your child), into your own soul.

But you can't. They have their own room. And you waste such intimacy with the Lover of your soul if you are trying to bring all the stuff and people outside . . . inside.

It's just you and God in there. All the other stuff should bounce off the walls of that room. He is enough. He is good. So good. And the more you risk trusting in Him, the more He will come through.

I decided somewhere along this motherhood journey that to surrender is better than to live with guarantees. I can "white knuckle" my way through motherhood and try to control as much as possible - thinking it will guarantee safe, godly children. Or I can invite a deeper surrender.

Mamas, I bet my life that when difficulties come, the eyes that are fixed on Jesus - safe in that room where there is no one else . . .

            no children

            no husband

            no career accolades

            no talents or false sense-of-self  

 . . . those eyes will see His glory. That woman will see with an eternal perspective. And she will, as my son’s name reminds me daily, rejoice