“Have you heard of ‘reservation time’?” our counselor asked. I shot my husband a blank look. I had no idea what he was talking about. “The Navejo have a custom,” he explained, leaning forward in his chair. “Families often live far apart without telephones, so rather than show up unannounced on a neighbor’s doorstep, they drive their cars within hearing distance of their neighbor‘s property. They park, and wait patiently for the neighbor to prepare the home for their visit until finally, the front door opens to signal that they are ready to welcome them inside.”
Our therapist paused and waited for my husband and I, two college-educated, fairly intelligent adults to connect the dots. Clearly, our combined IQs were not going to come to the rescue. And frankly, we were just so tired, it was hard to think, let alone find the relevance between a Navajo custom of car-sitting and our son’s struggle with autism spectrum disorder.
We had spent the last hour listing our ongoing frustrations about our 19-year-old’s failure to launch despite transition programs, medication changes, and strategies tried-and-true to provide success for this bright guy who struggled with challenges associated with ASD. So much potential just going to waste while we waited. And waited. And wondered. Was he ever going to launch? Was he ever going to be ready?
And then, mid-sentence (an ADD moment), I saw the connection.
Like the Navajo, my husband and I need to practice patience and grace, sitting in our metaphorical car, waiting for our son to determine when he’s ready to open his front door to welcome life in. Like so many things in the world of autism, there is no timetable that we can set our clocks by. We simply have to wait patiently until he tells us that he is ready and the time is right. Only, I hate waiting. I’m really bad at it. So how on earth am I supposed to change?
The next morning I opened my Bible to finish my reading in I Thessalonians. And there it was. The answer to my latest question. “Hold on to what is good.” (1 Thess 5:20)
How do I avoid the frustration of seeing others like my son moving forward at a faster pace in life? How do I stop champing at the bit of my own impatience and my cookie-cutter expectations?
According to Paul my needs are the same as my ancient, struggling brothers and sisters in the persecuted Thessalonian church. I need to hold on to what is good. I need to keep my eyes turned away from things that discourage me. (5:22) I need to pray with thanks to God for the good things I see even in the middle of difficult circumstances. (5:17,18) And I need to allow the Holy Spirit to give me spiritual eyes to see and celebrate what my own cannot. (5:19) When I do these things, I can wait in the car expectantly, at peace, knowing that my son is preparing in his own way, in his own time.
Trying to put Paul’s instruction into practice, yesterday, I tried to fend off my less-than-Thanksgivingly-attitude about life, the universe and everything. When I caught my inner-grouch grumbling about my son’s volunteer job, I stopped short. Despite my cynical feelings, I prayed that his work would be a blessing and help him to take one more step toward self-awareness and responsibility. When he got home, I remembered my uncharacteristic prayer, and asked him if he’d learned anything new. And to my thankful surprise, he recounted an amazing eureka moment of self-discovery. I think at that moment, my inner grouch did a dance of joy.
This week millions of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving, commemorating a day almost 400 years ago when another tribe of Native Americans opened their door of welcome to the English settlers to give thanks for God’s provision. May we, too, give thanks for God’s grace (of good gifts given), God’s mercy (from bad things rescued), and for His purposes achieved in our lives, and in the process of opening doors in the lives of our children.
Latest posts by Kelli Ra Anderson (see all)
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- Retreating in God’s Hands: respite for the special needs parent - May 25, 2015