Sunday, March 31, 2013


Alex’s comment came out of the blue recently when we were just sitting together in companionable silence: “Mommy talks too much.” Not certain that I’d heard him correctly, I asked him what he had just said. “Mommy talks too much,” he repeated, grinning in a way that either meant he was teasing me or that he was pleased that he’d conveyed what he’d been thinking. His remark made me laugh because I knew there was no malice intended; in our house, I am by far the chattiest one.

What Alex doesn’t know is that besides all the verbal conversations I have with him and Ed, I often speak silently to God throughout the day. From the moment I roll out of bed in the morning until the last few minutes before I fall asleep at night, I thank and question God all day long. From thanking God for the loved ones in my life to asking Him to take care of them to requesting patience in dealing with them at times, I like to keep our lines of communication open at all times.

Since Alex was diagnosed with autism seventeen years ago, most of my prayers have focused upon him: “Please take care of Alex.” “Please heal Alex.” “Please let Alex be all right.” “Please make Alex better.” “Please keep Alex safe.” “Please show us how to help Alex.” “Please give us strength and patience to deal with Alex.” With my constant prayers requesting help, God probably agrees with Alex that I talk too much.

However, I do try to balance my asking with gratitude: “Thank you, Lord, that Alex had a good day.” “Thank you, God, that Alex is doing better.” “Thank you, Lord, that Alex is happy.” “Thank you, Lord, for helping us with Alex.” “Thank you, God, that we can afford to provide Alex with what he needs.” “Thank you, God, for Alex.”

When Alex was fifteen, we were going through a difficult phase with him, and Ed and I felt overwhelmed as to what we needed to do. After that stage had passed, we were explaining to a psychologist who was evaluating Alex that we felt this time had been one in which Alex had not made a great deal of progress. He sympathetically commented that we had been “in survival mode” and could only deal with the big issues because that’s what needed to be addressed at the time.

During that phase when Alex first showed aggressive behaviors that physically and emotionally drained us, I remember trying a new tactic with God: bargaining. “Lord, if you will just make Alex better, I will serve You by helping others.” As Alex’s behavior did not improve, and at times even declined, I repeated my promise to God, reminding Him that I had a plan if He held up His end of the deal. Still, Alex’s behavior seemed really no better. I went into stronger persuasive mode with God: “If You make Alex better, I’ll have more time and energy to help other people.” Yet, Alex continued to sap our energy with meltdowns. Frustrated and upset with our situation, I felt as though God were ignoring me. I wished that He would speak to me as He did the prophets and explain why things were not getting better, at least as far as I could tell.

After weeks and months of seemingly unanswered prayers, I finally realized something important: God had a plan, and I needed to accept it. Instead of worrying about Alex, I needed to trust that when the timing was right, God would make Alex better. Instead of whining about my situation, I needed to find peace that everything would be all right. Instead of negotiating about how I could serve God, I needed to find a way to help others in the situation where I was right then. While I couldn’t serve God in obvious ways by going on mission trips or teaching Sunday school or volunteering in the community, I could find things to do while I waited for Alex to get better. I could pray for people and crochet prayer shawls for the sick and write encouraging notes and be the best person I could be. Mostly, I figured out that my main responsibility was to take care of Alex. Certainly, I’m no saint, and this difficult time was meant to make me better while Alex got better, and he did. Praise God.

Last year, after a year where Alex had been the best he had ever been, the aggressive behaviors returned with a vengeance. Not only was Alex more aggressive, but he also was also physically bigger and stronger, making him a greater threat to Ed and me. What we thought was behind us was now in front of us, and we were disappointed, frustrated, and scared. Despite more fervent prayers, I felt that God had abandoned us in our greatest time of need. Like Christ on the cross, I asked God why He had forsaken us. When we found ourselves at a crossroads where we had to make a crucial decision, He guided us to a hospital where caring professionals knew how to help Alex. During that uncertain time when we didn’t even know if Alex would get better or even able to come home, we received love and support from family and friends whose presence, phone calls, notes, and prayers sustained us. While Ed and I struggled to be faithful, God was faithful.

A year after our ordeal, Alex has continued to get better at home after his weeks of hospitalization. While we have worked at trying to make up for the lost time of the second instance we lived in “survival mode,” Alex shows signs that he can get back to the time where he showed greatest promise, such as commenting on my talkative nature and finding it funny. As we wait for his complete recovery, I remember my promise to God and keep striving to find ways to help others, especially Alex. As I look back on our time of testing which has given us a testimony of faith, I completely understand the wisdom displayed in the lyrics of the Christian inspirational song “Through”: “When I saw what lay before me, I cried, ‘Lord, what will You do?’ I thought He would just remove it, but He gently led me through…Through the pain and through the glory, through it all we’ll tell the story of a God whose love and mercy will not fail to take us through.”

Today on Easter Sunday, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I thank God for the merciful and loving sacrifice of His Son, who gives us eternal hope, and for always reminding me through my own son that--no matter what--He will always see us through.

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16


K. C. Wells said...

I have always admired your strong faith and ability to find guidance in the most frustrating times. You are an inspiration to so many.

marjorie said...

I agree with KC! Happy Easter to you and your family.

Pam Byrne said...

Dear K.C. and Marjorie,
I'm touched by your kind comments! Thank you so much. :)