It was one of those “ah-ha” moments. Three years ago, if someone told me my son would one day drive an 18-hour trip to South Georgia, I would have laughed. Or cried. Or told you very politely to jump in a lake. (Preferably, a very deep one.) Driving lessons were not going well.
But just celebrating his 20th birthday, my son (who exhibits typical traits of ASD like anxiety and hyper-focus) is driving the last leg of a two-day journey to his grandparent’s home, even as I type these words.
“The soil looks like Mars,” He observes from the drivers seat as we pass freshly bulldozed mounds of deep red earth, gashed like a wound across a field of coarse Burmuda grass. Tall, skinny pines along the back roads of Coffee County flicker in blinking succession past my window while he tells his father about 8-bit video game music that calms him when behind the wheel. I’m just so glad he’s actually driving I don’t even care I’ve been listening to computer bleeps and blips for the past 80 miles.
“If you’re clear, you want to get in the left lane,” His father interrupts, coaching him on the approach to the interstate onramp. John dutifully complies, slides into his lane, and begins to cruise at 65 mph.
But only a nanosecond after my silent applause for this moment of victory, comes my inner killjoy. “Yes, he can drive. But will he ever be capable of living on his own? Will he ever get a job? Will he ever brush his teeth without bribery? Will he ever–?”
My heart sinks and I turn my gaze back to the Bible in my lap and realize I’ve been mindlessly re-reading the story where Jesus visited his hometown. Clearly, I could use a little of that hyper-focus. “Then they scoffed, ‘He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.’ They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him,” (Mark 6:3, NLT)
Familiarity breeds contempt.
Jesus’ own neighbors, people he’d grown up with, who should have cheered louder than any one, refused to see his abilities and celebrate them. Instead, they wanted more. More miracles. More signs. More wonders. But the truth is, there could never be enough proof to satisfy them because they could not appreciate what was already in front of them.
Sometimes, I don’t fully appreciate what I see, either.
I look back up to my son, sitting erect, both hands steady at the wheel, and then up to the patch of blue sky slowly drifting past my view. I am struck with the similarity between myself and those who scoffed. I am suddenly so sorry and ashamed. I ask God to forgive me. To forgive my demand for more, more, more and for my refusal to stay in the moment long enough to celebrate and give Him thanks for what He has accomplished in John. Because when I do think about it, I am grateful.
I think of my friend who would give more than a right arm to hear her son say “I love you,” as he did as a toddler before autism silenced his voice. I think of those who, like me, miscarried over and over, but never carried a pregnancy to term. Or my other friend whose son with Asperger’s is living at college, but who admits how she envies my son for his ability to drive! Ridiculous. Unprofitable. Wrong. Why can’t I keep my eyes on what God is doing in my son, celebrate the victories, and leave the rest to His plan, His timing and His ways? Comparison is the enemy of joy.
Like the repentant woman caught in adultery, I sense God extend a calloused, carpenter’s hand and lift me up from the dust of my discontent. He hears my heart’s repentant cry and affirms that He does not condemn me, with the added reminder as he dusts me off, to get up and try again. Another opportunity to “Go, and sin no more.”
I smile in response to God’s mercy just in time to hear John sing a line of Willy Nelson’s “On the road again…” followed by a self-congratulatory chuckle at his own joke. Nary a truer word was spoken.
Question: What milestone, character trait, recent event or aspect of your child’s life is worth taking the time to pause, savor and celebrate?
–Kelli Ra Anderson, author of devotional, blog and podcast Divine Duct Tape and soon to be released Life on the Spectrum
Latest posts by Kelli Ra Anderson (see all)
- Calming our Anxiety in Special Needs Parenting - August 24, 2015
- Victory in the Seeming Loss of Special Needs Advocacy - June 22, 2015
- Retreating in God’s Hands: respite for the special needs parent - May 25, 2015