So, for the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out how to speak my heart. Then last week, someone spoke some of the feelings I’ve had. I love the mom of Micah Boy Genius. So when she posted this blog last week, http://blog.micahboygenius.com/2014/05/listening-to-your-pastor-instead-of.html , I felt I could speak freely and share my emotional story of how Em’s autism challenged my faith.
Let’s start with the beginning. We didn’t know it was autism. We knew something was off but up until she was just a month past 11 years old, we didn’t know exactly what. We knew the diagnosis’ she’d been given weren’t lining up and we were worn. I was worn out. I was exhausted and my faith was quivering.
I was feeling guilty about it too. I knew what I believed. I believed God had plans for me. I believed God had plans and a purpose for my children. I taught Sunday School. I knew the lessons and believed them all. I found joy and peace in them. Yet, there was some unsettling in my heart. I was watching my Emelie, wondering how God could make her life so chaotic.
I apologized for Emelie. When she was struggling and acting out, not realizing it was sensory overload, I would apologize for her. I would feel abandoned by God. Not because of her, not because of me, just in general. I wondered if my faith was strong enough.
I stopped going to church. Didn’t stop Matt or Christian from going but stopped myself because Em couldn’t handle being in Sunday School and Church and the same time. I choose to place her in the least restrictive environment and hope to encourage her faith. Our Pastor at the time was extremely understanding of why I started stepping back from other areas of involvement in church. Most of our congregation was too. Yet, there were always a few.
I started to feel the critics and took it to heart. Maybe I wasn’t praying hard enough? Maybe my faith wasn’t strong enough? Maybe I wasn’t good enough for my God? Maybe I was a bad mother? Maybe… All of it came back to a list of maybes. Our Pastor realized the spot I was in and encouraged me. He started in the area he felt needed to be addressed first. That was to be the first person besides my mom to tell to STOP apologizing for Em. He told me God made her perfect. That God has plans for her and even if we couldn’t see them, they were there.
Time changes and clarity comes with it. My faith was damaged, because I allowed the maybes to put doubt in my mind. When we moved, we couldn’t find a church that fit well with Em. Knowing there were going to be things that were challenging for her, finding a church with an understanding for her was going to be key. And we looked. We thought we found one but she wasn’t ready, and I was still healing from myself depreciation of my personal faith.
I had to look long and hard again at my faith. I was looking through Christian’s confirmation stuff trying to figure out how to prepare Em for confirmation best. And I found my resolve. Remembering why I loved teaching kids the basics to prepare them for confirmation. Why I loved the challenging questions they posed to me and digging for answers to share the next time I saw them. And I found my answer to why all the praying in the world, all the claiming in Jesus name, and having the faith of a mustard seed wouldn’t change Emelie’s struggles or personage: she was made the way God wanted her for a purpose and it’s THY will be done in the Lord’s prayer. Not mine. Not Matt’s. Not any person by Thy as in GOD. And things are revealed in HIS time. Not mine. Not yours. Not all the begging in the world will reveal it sooner.
So, I had to go back to the basics of letting go, and letting God. Thanking God for each day we have. Thanking God for the things Em is strong in. Embracing His plan is NEVER easy. And I know there are some who will look at me as some foolish brainwashed Christian. So be it.
I know what I believe. That’s the joy of life. We are all free to believe what we like. I just know that there is a plan in place. I may not understand it, but that’s ok. I’ll follow my path the best I can and hope and pray that as we return to a church Em did find peace in, God will use us to open doors to other families looking for hope.
Autism and Faith CAN go hand in hand. Sometimes it just takes time to find a place that connection doesn’t feel so overwhelming and defeated. And knowing when to stand your ground and push back the guilt and doubt help. In the end, Autism challenged my faith. And in the end, my faith was stronger. So Autism challenged my faith to be stronger and better and it became that for me.