For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:4-5
My sweet Zeke. Precious child of God. He was born 3 weeks early on the night of a voter’s meeting. I didn’t bother to tell my husband I was in labor until midnight…why add to his burden? I’m sure someone can relate.
…And then he was here. 5 lbs, 1 oz. of wriggly tiny old man-looking cuteness. Zeke was precious, and always had lots of needs. He never slept well, he never ate great, he used his swing until he was 18 months old. He had RSV, pneumonia…He hated birds chirping and could do without people most days. He didn’t really talk until he started occupational therapy at 2.
But oh, the sweetness. When he’s happy, you can’t even imagine how happy. He regales us with his funny matter-of-fact stories, he loves lions and Papa and skipped the Duplo stage and went straight to engineering Legos early on.
I always had this deep fear of autism as a young parent. My generation is probably the one made fully aware of autism from the first moment of parenting. I got the message loud and clear that it was painful, difficult, unknown, and a struggle. I thought that with it my child wouldn’t touch me, laugh with me, look at me. I had built misconceptions all up in my mind that fed a fear leaving me praying- “anything but that, Lord. Anything but that…”
And then it came to our house.
By the time Zeke got his diagnosis of Spectrum (Zeke’s form is what they formerly used to call Aspberger’s), I felt freed by it. Here was my beautiful child, a gift from above, with all his quirks, precious to me. It wasn’t anything like I feared. God gave him to me as a gift. What Satan tormented me with in fear, God made beautiful daily. With Zeke’s diagnosis I can begin to help people understand him and his way of processing the world. I deeply believe Zeke’s way of seeing the world can teach us so much, if we only take the time to see it.
And isn’t that the way God is. He takes the very thing we feared, the very thing that poked at us and crumpled our hearts, and uses them to take fear from us, to wash the anxiety and build our trust in Him.
God is using Zeke’s testimony already. God has a plan and a purpose, not only for Zeke, but for autistic Zeke, for Zeke’s challenges and his gifts.
Our church is a different place with a little boy who can’t sit in a pew, but prefers to lay in the aisle. Our church is a different place because getting a “hi” from Zeke is something special and you have to work for it a bit. It’s difficult some days, but I’m reminded that other kids and other parents can be encouraged in knowing we all struggle in the world. Zeke’s struggle simply now has a name.
May our churches flourish with these little gifts. Gifts that remind us that God made us all a little bit different, and what God made is always good. May we lift up the differences, celebrate them, and love them in a way that shouts to the world- This is Christ, alive and well, people!
Through a little boy…praising the Lord, in His own way.
Do you have a child who shouts praises to the Lord in his or her own way? I’d love to hear your story.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
My supervisor left a sweet note in my box the other day:
I saw this and thought of you. 🙂
(A generally good way to make someone’s day is to leave a note like this!) Attached to the note was a small magazine with a post-it note marking one tiny article that ran down the side of a page.
The article was entitled “The Women in the Pew Next to Me.”
I didn’t even get a chance to read the article before my mind was working over time. How often do we notice what is happening in the world of the woman sitting next to us on Sundays?
Who knows if her marriage is happy?
Who knows if her heart is breaking over the decisions of one of her children?
Who knows if she’s losing her house?
Who knows if she’s waiting for a diagnosis from a doctor?
Who knows if she’s working two jobs?
Who knows if if she grew up losing her self-worth slowly to sexual abuse?
Who knows if anyone ever told her she’s beautiful?
Who knows if anyone told her God loves her despite her past, despite her present?
Who knows if she’s exhausted…chasing little people, slogging through laundry, sacrificing dinners out for family time in?
Who knows if someone’s words cut deep into her heart?
Who knows if she feels insignificant- searching for a friend who will listen and laugh, cry and hug?
Who knows if she lost one of her children to heaven in the early stages of her pregnancy?
Who knows if she struggles to control her weight, her beauty, her emotions?
Who knows if she still cries silent tears from the abortion so many years before, or just days ago?
Who knows if she struggles to care for a child whose needs seem more than she could ever fill?
At the risk of sounding too law oriented- have we taken the time to notice, to care, to ask about the tears, real or silent rolling down her face? This, my friends, is the church. This pew is where Christ meets us in the form of people who love us, hold us up when we have no strength, and laugh with us in our deepest joys.
What if that person is your pastor’s wife? What if one person asked her out to coffee or invited her over for a moment of friendship? What if we included one another in our lives to the degree that we open in our hearts and let Christ do His great big work of Love, and Forgiveness, and Compassion, and Kindness through those of us sitting in the pew together.
*The original article given to me by my supervisor was in Vol. 7, Issue 1 of Touchpoints (2011), put out by the Columbus Coalition Against Domestic Violence. and written by Poppy O’Guin Steele.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
If there was a test for pastor’s wives, I generally feel like I would fail. Well, maybe not fail, but pass just barely. I have some skills in ministry. I have a degree in ministry, two, after all, and a passion for God and loving His people, but that doesn’t mean I feel like I’d pass the pastor’s wives challenge. Can anyone relate?
There is no challenge, of course. No test. No rules. Just real life and real forgiveness.
So, here is my fail.
My husband’s grandma died last week. We came back early from vacation and he prepared to perform the funeral. We were sad, thankful that Grandma Gigi was 98, and had been a wonderful blessing in our lives, but sad and missing her smiling face already.
Funeral day came. I dressed my kids and prayed endlessly for my husband. Lord, give him the words. Lord, give him strength. Lord, give him peace.
The family walked in the church and I sat down with my beautiful kiddos in the pew right behind “reserved for family”, because there was no room in the inn evidentially. My three year old found the nifty wooden sign declaring “reserved for family” and promptly threw it to the floor. He loved the clattering noise and was ecstatic when some kind soul in front of us placed it back on the pew in reach. 3 more tries and I found a different home for that sign.
My 9 year old, nearly refused to go up and sing with the other children in a rendition of Jesus loves me. He pushed his Old Adam shoes into the bright red carpet and walked noticeably and painfully slowly to the front of the church.
Midway through the sermon my 11 year old began weeping in earnest. She loved her Gigi. She was heart broken and sad, and distraught at her first real reminder that on this earth there is death and sorrow. I put my arm around her and tried to gently comfort her, until my 3 year old simply could not be contained in the quiet anymore and began stomping his feet against the pew in defiance of experiencing one more minute of the service.
All of this was expanded by the sweet woman behind us who clearly had a hearing difficulty and whispered a loud play-by-play to her fellow worshipper – “He likes that sign!” “He doesn’t want to go up there and sing!” “She misses her Grandma!” “He’s ready for the service to be over!” She meant well, and in her defense was inadvertently supportive, but it was embarrassing to say the least.
I hauled my 3 year old out of church, down the middle aisle, burying my face in his neck, to camouflage the sobs welling up in my throat. This was a disaster with a capital D. I felt spent, sad, and still anxious for my husband preaching his heart out.
I stood in the hallway of the church, feeling lonelier than I’ve ever felt in 10 years of ministry. Someone quietly walked up behind me and gave me a hug, a member of our church, a friend. Her words were simple and sweet. Gospel in my dark moment…”I’m so sorry. I wish I could make it better.”
The message of the church. The embrace of love in the moment of despair. That’s all I needed. That turned what felt like an epic mom failure and pastor’s wife nightmare into a moment between friends. I am not alone. When I am weak, God gives me strength, often through His people, from someone who simply wanted to help make it better this side of heaven.