I had to restrain my child today. This is the part of severe autism that no one likes to talk about. As well as he is doing and as much as he has overcome, everyone has a bad day. This was his.
He had stubbed his toe on the corner of the wall hard enough that it bent back the nail inside his sock. It must have been very painful. How frustrating it must have been to have been hurt and not be able to tell anyone about it. How terribly painful it must have been when I was asking him to put his shoe on so we could go to school. How was I supposed to know his nail was bent back inside his sock? And he couldn’t tell me. Not with words anyway.
Do you know what it feels like to have to move in such a way to keep your child from hurting themselves or others? Can you possibly imagine what it’s like to have to set up a barrier of mats between yourself and your child so as to protect yourself (and him) until he is able to harness his rage?
I can tell you, in that moment, all hope seems to be sucked right out of you. As the parent of a special needs child, you are left feeling drained, defeated, and depleted as a darkness sets in like no other. All the good, everything your child is working so hard to overcome, all the strengths, all the victories and accomplishments seem to fade in the gravity of the mere sixty seconds of rage that feels like an eternity.
I was finally able to figure out why he was so upset. Once he calmed, I helped him with his toe nail and we were able to get his sock and shoe on. He pulled me in and gave me a big hug and kiss as if to say “Thank you, Mom. That’s exactly what I was trying to show you but didn’t know how. I’m so sorry.” But by the time we got in the car and he walked into the school building with his little happy-go-lucky, step-hop that he does, I was worn out.
Just that morning I had spent time alone with the Lord. I had asked him to fill me up! And now I already felt like any “filling” that had been done had been spilled out. I was done with my day. And it was only 8:30 in the morning.
How quickly we allow our circumstances to dictate our perception of reality and steal our joy.
The Lord gently reminded me of the verse I had studied earlier that morning. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him,” –John 7:37-38.
Whether you’re a special needs parent or not, there’s such a good reminder in these verses.
“Come to me and drink” – God never forces Himself on us. In the midst of life’s chaos, we must seek Him to fill us and quench our thirst. The world will throw those things at us which are sure to leave us feeling parched and worn. All of the “positive thinking” can fill us with a temporary and counterfeit hope, but it is a weak alternative to the living water God offers to sustain us with.
“Whoever believes in me” – Is your trust in Jesus Christ? Friends, our joy and hope will never be found in our circumstance. When our focus is taken off of the Lord, when our lives reflect that we are functioning in our own strength, when we have allowed ourselves to settle into a faltering faith, we will surely be overcome.
“Streams of living water will flow from within him.” – Water is powerful. Get enough water with a large enough current, and a river can overcome barriers with little effort. Do not forget that the river of the Spirit of God can overcome all obstacles. When we depend on the Lord for our strength, the matters of this world pale in comparison. Keep your eyes fixed on the source of the river of life within you.
My son’s occasional aggression is heartbreaking. We all have real, very sharp cutting struggles in our lives. God does not ask us to brush off our battles. He does, however, ask us to come to Him. Our hurts are His hurts. He longs to fill us up and sustain us with His joy, grace, and peace that surpasses all understanding. When the waves of life crash around you, keep your eyes fixed on the source of living water. He will get us through.
First Published for my partners at Joni & Friends and Irresistible Church