Sunday, April 16, 2017

Grace over Guilt

Most mothers, especially those who have special needs children, would admit one of the strongest and most difficult feelings to handle is guilt. Often we feel guilty for what we may have done that might have caused our children to have issues. At other times, we feel guilty for our perceived sins of omission, failing to do something that might have made a difference in our children’s lives. The saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20,” and looking back on our lives, we recognize the things we may have done differently had we known what we know now. On the other hand, if we truly believe that God is guiding our lives, we realize that every event in life is necessary to get us where we need to be. That consideration relieves some of the pressure we moms face, knowing that everything in life, indeed, has a purpose.

To be honest, in my OCD fashion, I have scrutinized every possible thing that could have led to Alex having autism. If I had done things differently, might he have escaped this condition that makes his life more difficult than it needs to be? I remember a colleague of my obstetrician asking me point blank why I was still working midway through a pregnancy considered high risk. When I explained that my doctor had assured me that I could safely work up until the day I gave birth, as long as I felt well enough, he scoffed at me. Then he turned to Ed, wagged his finger, and said, “If she were my wife, she wouldn’t be working.” Perhaps if I hadn’t dismissed his opinion as old-fashioned, might Alex have not developed autism?

“Neither this [blind] man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:3

In my last trimester, I caught the flu and had to be hospitalized because the virus made my blood platelet count drop to dangerously low levels. To treat this condition, the internist gave me gamma immune IVs, which I later discovered contained mercury as a preservative. Had I stayed home to avoid exposure to germs and not gotten sick, might Alex not have been exposed to the virus and mercury, which we later discovered had poisoned him?

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16

As a conformist who follows rules and guidelines, I implicitly trusted Alex’s pediatricians and faithfully took him to receive all of his vaccinations on time, even though he had been exposed to prednisone in utero that I was given to treat an autoimmune condition. When they assured me that he would be fine, I believed them, and gave him Tylenol as they recommended, never questioning the process. Had I done more research about vaccines and their toxic ingredients and known about how Tylenol hinders the body’s natural detoxification pathways, might I have spared him neurological damage?

“Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” II Corinthians 12:9

When I suspected that Alex did, indeed, have autism, I tried to present my concerns when he was three years old to his pediatrician, who basically dismissed me as a fretting first-time mother. Although I pointed out his language delays and resistance to toilet training, he assured me that Alex couldn’t be autistic because “He’s too smart.” Moreover, he was certain that Alex’s delays in speech and toileting were simply because he was a boy. Trusting his professional judgment, we waited another year before insisting that Alex be tested for developmental delays. Had I instead trusted my mother’s instinct and ignored the pediatrician’s opinion, would a year earlier of intervention have made a difference in the long run?

“In His kindness God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation.” I Peter 5:10

The bottom line is that I have made multiple mistakes as Alex’s mom. However, many of the choices I made were based upon trusting professionals whom I thought knew better than I did. Moreover, my intentions have been focused upon doing what I thought was in Alex’s best interests. When I allow my mind to wander into the “What if?” scenarios, I realize that the guilt I feel is unwarranted and does nothing to change things. Furthermore, I’m certain that God has forgiven any mistakes I have made in raising Alex. Instead of carrying around guilt, I must accept the gift of grace and be thankful.

“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8

As we celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Jesus, we know that through God’s sacrifice of His son, all of our sins are forgiven. To hold onto feelings of guilt diminishes the value of that ultimate parental sacrifice. Grace is not something to be earned but something to be appreciated because it’s given in spite of our mistakes. Instead of looking back on what I think I should have done differently, I need to look back on all that God has done to make Alex better and how our faith, hope, and love have been strengthened, trusting that He will guide us to the future glory He has planned.

 “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Romans 5:1-2

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