By Katie Corrigan
“I WANT IT!!” “MOMMY, I WANT IT!!” “NOW!!”
The screaming and yelling were escalating by the second. My sweet boy was moving into a state of hysterics.
No, this was not happening in our kitchen, in the privacy of our home, and no, this was not my boys’ cry of desperation fueled by hanger… This was at Target. In the middle of Hades, also known as the candy aisle.
The sideways glances in our direction began as quick looks, that eventually lingered into long, gawking stares. My humiliation quickly morphed into anger and frustration at my little guy. I tried to keep my tone under control (because let’s face it, we were in public) and patiently attempted to soothe his brain that was dead-set and stuck on bringing home the Wild Berry Skittles.
To no avail.
“NOWWWWWWWWWW!!” was all l heard at a frequency that I’m positive only dolphins and whales can decipher.
In an instant, I immediately shoved my hand over his mouth to contain the wailing. At this point, everyone in the store knew that something was going down on aisle 6. I was so angry. Patience, gone. I threw everything out of the cart and ran out of the store at a speed that could only be described as running from a grenade.
In the car, I lost it. As he was now even more upset than in the store, and melting down for the 4th time this week (It was a Tuesday), I started screaming. Not at him, but in general. We were in a screaming battle for a solid 30 seconds before either one of us stopped. Yep. Mother of the Year.
I had lost my cool. My patience with my boy that had challenges understanding reason, and even struggled to comprehend what I was trying to say, evaporated. And I know that my story is common. As a parent of a child with special needs, there are unique challenges that I face that are not unique to my own child. Every parent, special needs or not, is faced with numerous opportunities to LEARN and exhibit patience.
Patience… it’s a funny thing, isn’t it? They say it’s a “virtue”. By definition, virtue is “moral excellence”. Excellence implies a move from the mediocre to the exceptional, which implies there is a process in play.
I have never been a patient person. Never. By nature, (and strengthsfinders) I’m an Activator. Activators crave movement and progress, and fast. We rarely want to wait for progress, because why would you wait for progress to unfold when you can just drive to create it? By no means am I stating we should never push for progress or drive to achieve our goals. I’m merely proposing that not all virtues are created equal. Not every virtue is happened upon naturally. Some virtues, such as patience, require a process of unfolding—a carving into our souls a deep crevice meant to be filled with these virtues that our children need so desperately for us to display.
I have a confession. And this is one I’m not proud of. As a child, I had an experience with another child with special needs that downright scared the daylights out of me. I didn’t understand the behaviors and therefore became afraid of what I thought was unpredictable. All throughout my childhood and into early adulthood, I still held this fear deep within my heart. I never expressed it out loud, but would create distance whenever I was in a situation where I thought that fear would be brought to the surface.
Up until the moment I received the diagnosis about my son’s autism, both of these “non-virtues”, fear and impatience were etched deep within my operating system. They dictated how I lived, moved, who I surrounded myself with, and how I treated people. My impatience and fear created a lack of compassion in me that marked a number of encounters I had with various people in a dark way. I grieve when I think about how my heart of stone became a vehicle for me to either run over or run away from people that God may have intended me to learn from.
On April 30th, 2015, my non-virtues were set ablaze when the doctor came in the room.
“Yes, he is on the Autism spectrum”.
Tears. Shock. Confirmation. Repeat.
The myriad of emotions in that one moment is difficult to articulate and has taken much processing internally, externally, and prayerfully. Not all conclusions and revelation came overnight, in fact, most have come over the last few years.
Perhaps, just perhaps, God allows us to come face to face with our deepest fears, our ugliest attitudes, our hearts of stone, to deepen and develop virtues and character, that would only come about by a deep carving. An etching into our souls through a tool meant for precision of a process that could only be done by a pristine God.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of you and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26
The prophet Ezekiel was addressing the Israelites, God’s chosen, about the behaviors of the past. Their behaviors that had hurt the heart of God, and each other. The Lord describes this as a heart of stone.
I wonder how many of us have hardened our hearts to a God who speaks mercy, tenderness, gentleness and compassion because of our fears, insecurities, impatience, and pride? As I reflect on the goodness of God, I cannot help but note that He will never leave us hardened. As so often stated, “He loves us as we are, but never leaves us as we are”. His story written for us is so much better than our self-help processes we put into play to “help us be more patient, more kind, more faith-filled”. He will use every situation, sometimes (most times in my case) the exact opposite of what you expect.
My long-hidden and unaddressed fear of people with special needs and lack of patience became a hardened place of stone in my heart, one that could only be shattered by a love so perfect, so patient and so precise.
A love that doesn't just meet us in the beauty of a rainbow, or a sunny day at the beach, but one that loves us enough to bend down from heaven and crouches in the trenches of our own dark, stony parts. The only love willing to address the ugly and yet, gently—but firmly, etches away to replace it with…flesh. Compassion. Patience. Humility.
To the struggling mother that has wondered the “purpose” or the “why” of the season you may be in:
There is a process in play. It’s a process of moving from mediocre to excellent. From impatient to patient. From fear to faith. From surviving to thriving. From stone to flesh. And you will not go through it alone.
I encourage you, the seasons of transformation in our souls are neither futile nor final. Rather, they are the catalysts meant to propel you into personal healing and greatness. You were appointed this position of MOM for a reason, and God is within you and you will not fall (Psalm 46:5)
Esther 4:14 New International Version (NIV)
14 ……And who knows but that you have come to your royal position (a.k.a MOM emphasis mine) for such a time as this?”
Katie is a mother to two beautiful children, Carter and Kennedy. She is the co-lead Pastor alongside her husband, Todd, of Trinity Church San Diego in Poway, CA. Together, they are called to build the local church and are committed to building and encouraging the community of individuals and families with special needs. Katie enjoys long walks on the beach (seriously), mentoring women, and lives off hot Americanos no matter the weather. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!