Dinner with friends.
The waiting room at the therapist’s office.
The waiting room in the doctor’s office.
These are just a few of the places and events where I have had the exact same conversation with countless people. I don’t fault them for striking up this conversation and, in fact, I am glad they are asking questions instead of silently wondering and coming to wrong or negative conclusions. The first sentence of the discussion is always the same, with the same intonation.
“So, what do YOU think causes autism?”
They know that my son is autistic and that there is a ton of controversy over the answer to this enigma-shrouded mystery. They are curious to know what the answer is too. They’ve read articles and blog posts and heard news stories and want an insider’s perspective.
I’m pretty sure, though, that of all the answers I could give, the one that comes out of my mouth is not the one they expected… or wanted. They’d probably prefer me to definitively say that it’s because of the MMR vaccine (which I don’t believe is the sole cause, at least not for ALL cases of autism.) Or that it has to do with family genes (which is somewhat true for our family.) Or that I was sick during pregnancy (which I wasn’t.) What is harder to swallow is this: I believe that autism is one of the natural consequences of living in a sinful, fallen world, and I have absolutely no idea what specifically causes autism.
Mind-blowing, paradigm-altering news, I’m sure.
What they really don’t like to hear is that I personally don’t believe that we’ll ever have all the answers to what causes autism. You don’t have to agree with me. I just don’t think that we are meant to know every specific reason behind everything that happens that causes pain or suffering in any form. That’s not to say we won’t know one day. But for right now, we don’t. So in the not knowing, what are we to do?
Not knowing something means that we can’t control it. And when we are faced with something that clearly displaces us from our perceived captain’s chair of control, we want a reason. We want justification. WE WANT ANSWERS! We want a logical explanation so that we can at least have mental control over the situation even if we can’t actually do anything about it. But when disability enters our world and gets up close and personal, we really have only one recourse as believers: bow our knees in awe of the God who IS in control who owes no explanation other than, “I AM.” And that has to be enough for us. Because He is God and we are not. That can initially cause anger and frustration. But eventually acknowledging that He doesn’t have to give us a reason “why” creates an attitude of humility, which can then lead to worship. When I’m asked what causes autism, or I wander down the dead end road of questioning, “why my son?”, all I can do is to trust Jeremiah 29:11,
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'”
I know that my son struggles with the effects of autism. I struggle with the challenges autism brings to our daily lives. But I still love him for who he is, just as God created him. I know God has a plan for his life, and I have to trust that even with autism, it’s a good plan because God is a good God.
Don’t get me wrong. I still grieve over disability. I still cry when things get hard. My emotions still take over sometimes. It’s not always easy to bow the knee to the sovereign God. But I have no choice. I must. He is my true answer, and He is the one to provide rest and peace when I don’t have logical or tangible answers. I believe what II Corinthians 4:17 says,
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
Though it may sound trite, it is true that God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him. We can have hope in this life of suffering that God is using to draw us closer to Him, and we have hope for a glorious eternal future that is coming.
Dear parent, every tear you’ve cried over your child because of the difficulties they face in this life, whether mild or extreme, will be forever wiped away. Your daughter who is unable to speak in this life will sing praises to God and talk to Jesus freely without the use of PECS or iPad communication apps. Your son who melts down in the grocery store because the fluorescent lights are too bright will one day be able to look directly at the face of God whose glory will give light to the world – without melting down.
Regardless of the causes of the form of suffering and brokenness you are experiencing, I pray that you can rest in the hope that has already come through Jesus who is coming soon to ultimately redeem that brokenness and restore it back to perfection. This is the hope I have found in autism. This is where your hope is found too. Jesus Christ is King, and He will make all things new.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying,’Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes…’ And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’… And he said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.'” ~Revelation 21:3-5
In Christ Alone,
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