At the beginning of summer break, when May was finally winding down into the last weeks of school with final testing, ending projects, ceremonies and more ceremonies, I dreamed of what my “perfect” summer would look like. I even blocked it out in my calendar. The first week of June would be spent in Branson, Missouri, at the annual marriage meeting hosted by Faith Life Church. The last week of June to the second week of July would be spent in an extended road trip to Chicago to meet my husband’s family and see his old stomping ground. The last week of July/first week of August would be spent in Fort Worth, Texas at the South West Believer’s Convention. Every week would be full of adventure and spent living life to the full.
It is now the beginning of the third full week of June, and we didn’t go to Branson. The meetings were very good. I watched them via the live stream as I have the past several years. I also spent that week trying to figure out how to pay the bills we had with the money that was available while still reserving enough money for food and other necessities until pay day on the 15th. Now that that day has come and gone, I don’t know how we will make ends meet until after school starts up again in the fall. We are looking for summer work, but so far haven’t been able to secure anything.
My dream of a perfect summer is crashing into the reality of the twin giants that have plagued us since our children were small. One giant’s name is autism. It jerks us back from doing so much – as we adjust over and over again to the needs of the boys. On a good day they can melt down just from being together in the same room for too long. Their inability to cope with normal life has kept us out of church, out of fellowship with friends and family, and painted us into a corner so small that our other boys who are not afflicted with the disorder are as bound to the house and the smallness of our lives as the ones who are. It is wrong, but the giant is relentless in its bellowing and punishment of even our smallest attempts at breaking free. The second giant is our finances. Ever since the “good job” went away, we have been swimming against the current, barely keeping our noses above water. This is not to say that the mercy of God has not sustained us, because it is only by the grace and mercy of God that we haven’t failed and gone under completely. Yet, even when my husband had a good job, we had struggled. We have done our best to keep the cage we find ourselves in as gilded as best as we can. We have invested in virtual escapes to replace real ones, so that the confines of our prison would be more bearable. This has meant maintaining computer and gaming systems that would allow access to the world outside our walls via the internet, as well as access to games and virtual diversions, allowing us to see the world, even if we can’t be a part of it. The Bible says we are more than conquerors through our Lord Jesus Christ, but just as 10 spies who went into the promised land saw themselves as grasshoppers compared to the giants who lived in Canaan, it has become hard to see us as victorious, for the constant clamor and relentless noise of the giants screeching at us.
This brings me back to my Summer dreams, and the clash between what is happening and what I want to be happening. I can’t say I have earned the right to an adventure filled summer break. I haven’t worked all year and scrimped and saved in order to make such adventure possible. In fact, I have never held down a “real” job. I have always worked around my husbands schedule, doing what it took to make life work. I have always been the one whose first and primary job is to make the family life work. I have been content to be the one who manages the household- an unpaid but time consuming and important position. I am the one who makes sure buses are met, and lunches are made. I am the one who knows if the laundry soap is needing to be replenished, or if one of the boys needs new pants or socks or what have you. I am the one who makes sure that whatever is going to be wanted is on hand, and available for the one who wants to make it for dinner. I am the one who talks to the mechanics, who calls the service guys, who has the number of the owners of our house, and sees if the vacuums needs to be run. I do work. Right now I am looking again for a stop gap job to make ends meet until school and the normalcy and paycheck that comes with it start again. I haven’t earned a nice long vacation, so much as I just really really want to really live and to give a gift of hope and a glimpse of normalcy and what life can look like to my boys who have never tasted such wonders.
The reality I face, which I believe can and I want to believe is being changed by the truth of God’s word makes having a “real job” a difficult proposition at best for me right now. The oldest of our two sons who is afflicted with autism is a young man who never grew up, and cannot function without supervision and his daily necessities being provided to him. That means someone has to be here to fix his meals, to clean up after him and makes sure he is safe and secure. That person has been me. This has made holding down a “real” job difficult. I need to either work from home in a capacity that can work around the excessive noise and commotion that is created by him being here, or I need to find a way to get him out of the house which isn’t the “just send him to a day program” easy thing that people assume it would be. His behavior makes him extra challenging, and there isn’t a good fit for him in the community at large right now.
Now that the giants we face, along with the problems and commotion they cause have been described, we come back to the truth as the Bible describes it.
- Jesus already destroyed the power of autism by going to the cross 2000 years ago. Isaiah 53:4 describes how Jesus would take our pain and suffering- a deeper exploration of the Hebrew words there includes sicknesses and pain. Further more, Isaiah 53:5 shows us that the same suffering that wiped away the power of sin also restored our peace and healed us.
- Further, Jesus was made to be poor so that we could be made rich (2 Cor. 8: 9).
This should not shock us or confuse us. The curse that Adam brought into the world has always included separation from God, physical torment and want. The blessing of God has always reversed every area of that curse, when one believes God. Abraham believed God and was counted righteous. He had fellowship with God and was counted as his friend, even though we know he sinned. He saw his greatest physical brokenness healed as he and Sarah became parents to Isaac. And the blessing of God made him rich. God does not change. His desire to do good for people has never changed, and human’s propensity to believe anything other than God’s word about things hasn’t changed either. That’s why actually believing God will do good for long enough to see God do that good is such a rare thing. Yet those that did and do believe God and kept believing God are the ones whose lives show us the power of God at work on the earth, and are held up as examples for those who seek walk by faith as they did.
Wishing and dreaming are not the same as trusting God. Neither is begging and pleading or wailing or having a pity party. God tells us to believe Him. In fact it is impossible to please God without having faith. We must not only believe that He exists and is good and able to do good, but that he will do good for those who earnestly seek him (Heb. 11:6). If I don’t have the summer I dreamed about, it is not God’s failing- Jesus came so that we could have life, and have it to the full (Jn. 10:10).
Wishing something would happen and even praying something will happen without actually seeking God’s way to do it is vain. We must learn to know His voice and His ways, so he can show us what to do and how to do the things he wants for us to be able to do. We must learn follow the Good Shepherd to the green pastures and quiet waters he is endeavoring to lead us to. We will never get to those fertile places sitting in the sheep fold wondering if he even cares that we are in the pen, but believing he doesn’t speak to people any more. We have to follow his lead. We must be honest and have the courage to take steps into places we don’t fully comprehend, that don’t look like where we want to be going when we are following His lead. He knows where the good pastures and calm waters are, and we can trust that even if we are walking on a dusty dry path, he is leading us to where we need to go by those paths. We must learn to trust God and to walk in His ways. Or as the Sunday school song says- we must “trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Grace and Peace.