Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:1b-3 (The Message)
Between a rock and a hard place. That’s where my husband and I found ourselves the week after Christmas. Wally and I had tickets to fly to New York to visit ministry partners. It promised to be a refreshing visit—a benefit concert (with a quartet of accomplished jazz musicians) for the orphanage we’re building in Uganda. A “State of the Union” meeting, hearing from our ministry outposts all over the world. An Epiphany celebration, combining the fun of dressing up as kings leading into a night of worship. Plus, one-on-one time with our hosts, Ed and Annette, two of our best friends in the world. We couldn’t wait to go.
Like most of you, I’m the parent of a child with autism. My youngest, Joel, who is 27-years-old, has autism, moderate cognitive disabilities, and an anxiety disorder. Two years ago Joel moved from our home to Safe Haven Farms, a farming community for adults with autism. Wally and I were part of the parent group that created and established the farm. The transition has not been easy (understatement of the year!). For two years we have done everything in our power to ease Joel’s difficulty, and, praise God, we are beginning to see him relax into his new life. We thank God for Mohamed, a caregiver from Mauritania, Africa, who has been Joel’s “main man” for the past eleven years. If Mohamed hadn’t followed Joel from employment in our home to employment at Safe Haven, Joel wouldn’t have made it over the transition hump.
Which brings me back to the rock and the hard place.
When Mohamed takes a vacation, Joel falls apart. Big time.
Mohamed let us know, after we’d bought our tickets for New York, that he’d been invited by friends for a free trip to the Rocky Mountains. His trip was scheduled for the same week as ours.
I cried. Wally and I prayed. We looked at all of our options, none of them good. “We have to cancel the trip,” I told Wally that night. I called another friend in the ministry and told her we would most likely not be coming. She said she’d pray.
The next night Ed and Annette called. “We heard you’re thinking about cancelling,” Annette said. “We believe you’re supposed to be here this particular week. You need the rest. You need the refreshment. Let us pray for you.”
I put the phone on speaker. For five minutes Wally and I sat, eyes closed, letting the prayer wash over us. Ed and Annette prayed for God to make a way for us to be in New York on our chosen dates, for the chemicals in Joel’s brain to come into divine alignment, for someone to reach out to help us, for God to grant us deep rest.
“Thanks,” I whispered. “I needed that.” Not only had we been struggling with Joel’s behavioral issues. My mother has dementia, and I had just spent several months readying her house for sale (including remodeling two bathrooms, a family room, and a leaky basement), packing up and distributing forty years worth of belongings, and dealing with the emotional fall-out for both me and my mom. I was more than tired. I was bone-deep exhausted.
Twenty minutes after hanging up from that prayer, the phone rang again. It was Sarah, a long-time friend of Joel’s. At the tender age of eleven, Sarah volunteered to help at Joel’s special needs day camp. Joel was five-years-old at the time. They’ve been best buddies ever since, and Sarah has become part of our family.
“I’ve been thinking of taking Joel on a mini-vacation,” she said. “I was thinking Indianapolis. We could get a hotel with a pool and hot tub, and go to the children’s museum and the zoo. I thought we could go while you’re in New York. What do you think?”
What do I think?! What do I think?!
I laughed while I wiped tears from my eyes. Twenty minutes! God answered our prayer in twenty minutes!
We did not cancel our trip. We were refreshed beyond our wildest imaginings as we spent time with dear friends and ministry partners. We heard amazing stories of God’s movement through the worldwide ministries of our organization, Bridge for Peace. We worshipped, we prayed, we made plans, we laughed, we played.
We came home transformed.
At the age of 27, Joel had his first vacation without Mom and Dad. He had a blast. “I’ve never seen him so relaxed,” Sarah said over and over again, as we checked in each night by phone. He swam, splashed in the hot tub, watched the dolphin show at the zoo (twice!), and spent four hours at the Children’s Museum. Not one behavior in four days. Smiles from start to finish.
He came home transformed.
These words from Isaiah flood my heart: Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
A rock and a hard place? No sweat for our God! He transforms the rock by making a doorway through it. A doorway into transformation and grace.
Where is your rock and hard place? Take time to sit down and listen for God’s voice. Then look for the doorway through the rock. It’s there, waiting for you.
Kathleen Deyer Bolduc
Autism & Alleluias