Sunday, December 18, 2016

Good and Perfect Gifts

This week I read an interesting essay written by another mother of an adult son with autism. [To read this essay, please click here.] Entitled “Prayer Power,” Kathy Bolduc’s blog entry describes the importance of constantly praying for our children, even when our prayers appear to go unanswered. She writes, “I don’t know about you, but I pray and pray for my son, Joel, who has autism. Many times I do not see specific answers to those prayers.” She goes on to describe the struggles of trying to find ways to make her son more independent through day programs and jobs, praying that he can live a “happy and fulfilled life.” While she admits, “I realize that my prayers will not always be answered in the way that I think they should be. God knows the bigger picture,” she believes Satan is often to blame. She states, “And I also realize that Satan has more than a toe-hold in this world…He will try to block my prayers whenever possible.” While I completely agree about the need to pray for our children constantly, I don’t give Satan the credit she does. Moreover, the longer I live, the more I don’t believe that prayers go unanswered.

Five years ago when Alex was so consumed with anxiety that he could not cope with the smallest of changes, we prayed for ways to help make him better. When every day was a struggle to keep him safe because his adrenaline rushes made him aggressive and out of control, throwing and breaking objects, as well as attacking us verbally and physically, we prayed for peace in our home. When we could not find any professionals who seemed to know what was causing our sweet and docile son to turn into an angry young man, we prayed for God to show us the way. We didn’t get answers right away, but we held onto our faith and kept praying anyway because we didn’t know what else to do.

Things had to get so bad and so out of control that we were willing to turn over our son to the only place where he could receive the care he desperately needed: a locked psychiatric ward of a hospital forty minutes away from home. After we had exhausted all of the local resources and had not found answers, we were exhausted physically and emotionally, and we knew this was the only way to save our son. God led us down this path, and even though it was heartbreaking, this hospitalization was the first step in Alex’s healing. There, we found professionals who understood that hormonal surges of the late teens and early twenties had ramped up Alex’s anxiety to where he could not function. Moreover, the Prozac he had been taking for nearly ten years to help his OCD was no longer effective, making his anxiety even worse. After several weeks of trying various medications, they were able to come up with a combination that kept his anxiety under control so that his behavior was under control. Moreover, they helped us navigate the state bureaucracy to get Alex the support services he needed in record time. God knew what we needed and how to get there; He answered our prayers in unexpected ways.

Through the teachings of Pastor Joel Osteen and my experiences in life, I have learned that God answers prayers in a variety of ways. While we would like for Him to say “Yes” immediately, that is not always in our best interests. Sometimes He says “No,” knowing that His ways are better than ours, closing doors that we keep trying to open. In our life with autism, I have learned that God often makes me wait before answering prayers, developing my patience and my faith and my trust in Him. Sometimes, waiting is necessary to prepare us for the next step; God knows better than I do about when I’m really ready to handle something new. Furthermore, I don’t give Satan credence, as Kathy Bolduc does, in my prayer conversations with God. I firmly believe that God hears my prayers and makes the decisions as to how to answer them—yes/no/not yet––without any interference from anyone. Even through the darkest days, God was beside us, guiding us with His knowledge, grace, and love toward the light we now see clearly.

On Friday, Alex turned twenty-five. In the past, I have felt a little wistful on his birthdays, wishing that he were further along in his development of language and social skills and concerned about his lack of independence. This year, I felt none of that disappointment. In fact, I told his therapist the other day that twenty-four had been my favorite age of his because he has been such a joy this past year. Since he has overcome so many issues, learned to manage his anxiety successfully and been able to enjoy a variety of activities, he has lived a more typical life. Most importantly, he is happy and healthy. Before going through the fire with Alex, I might have bowed to superstition and crossed my fingers and knocked on wood that this peaceful, contented life would continue. However, I have faith that God is only going to make things better. Certainly, we still have obstacles and potential setbacks ahead, but I know that God has great plans for Alex, even though I don’t know exactly what they are.

As I was putting Alex to bed the night of his birthday, after a day of presents he liked, a delicious meal at a nice restaurant, a visit with his beloved grandparents, good wishes from family and friends, and his favorite gluten-free and dairy free birthday cake, I asked him what he liked best about his birthday. I honestly thought he’d tell me the shrimp he’d had for dinner, since he’d rated his meal at “one hundred percent.” However, after a quick reflection on the day, he smiled and said, “Everything!” I thought nothing was better than that until last night when Ed asked him the same question, and he responded again with the same answer. Trying to give me credit for arranging the details of a seemingly perfect birthday, Ed asked Alex who had made his birthday so special. Without a moment’s hesitation, Alex replied, “God!” Only too happy to give proper credit and glory to God, I’m not only thankful for the wisdom and faith He has given my precious son but also for always answering our prayers in ways that only He knows best, those “good and perfect gifts…from above.”

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

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