Read below for a guest post from Lorna Bradley.
If I had known the day was going to include a life or death, headlong, downhill race after my son, I would have worn different shoes. In hindsight, I should have seen it coming.
We moved to Chicago from Alaska while my husband attended graduate school. Living on a tight, student’s budget, we were happy to find a family friendly event in the neighboring town of Naperville, an annual steeplechase. It was a day in the country with horses jumping over fences (be still my heart!), gorgeous fall foliage, and a hillside picnic where our high-energy, high-rise dwelling three year old with ASD could enjoy the great outdoors and fire his afterburners. Perfect! Thinking it might be a fancy horse event, I wore casual slacks and flats. That was mistake number one. Oh, I was dressed just like everyone else, but…
We parked in the freshly mown hayfield and climbed the hill to find the ideal place for Craig to run and play, spreading out our blanket with the perfect view of the finish line. Opening our picnic hamper, we settled in for the first race. Eight brush jumps, a beginner round taken at an easy pace. Craig watched the horses jump the first few fences, bouncing away in my lap on his imaginary horsey, and shouted, “My turn!”
I thought he was joking.
That was mistake number two.
Back in the day in Alaska I rode horses and my husband would meet me at the barn with our son. After I had finished my ride, we’d buckle on a helmet and Craig would sit in the saddle in front of me, kicking his tiny feet, “Go Alex, go!” Each time he got to the barn, he’d see me jump a fence or two, call out, “my turn!” and he’d get a ride.
You know how kids with ASD are about routine? Well, I hadn’t figure that out yet.
He jumped out of my lap and started running down the hill, “My turn! My turn!”
I called after him that he couldn’t ride those horses, thinking he would stop. Ya, right. All I managed to do was let him get a head start.
That was mistake number three. Game on!
Mommy instincts finally kicked in. He’s not stopping! His tiny legs had remarkable turnover as he sprinted for the finish line. “Craig! Stop! The horses are coming!”
Dear God help me! No one else knew what was happening. The rest of the sparse crowd had their attention fixed on the finish line. I started running faster, flats slipping on the damp grass. My husband, realizing the seriousness, was on his feet behind me. There was no time to zigzag around the other picnicking guests. I leapt entire families in hurdler form, screaming like a crazy woman, “Craig! Stop!”
All dignity gone, feet skidding wildly, I finally managed to scoop up Craig about ten yards from the rail. Frankly, I was glad I didn’t fall on him and crush him.
Relieved. Scared. Embarrassed. Elated.
I tucked him under my arm like a wiggly football, full of giggles for his great adventure, and started the long trudge back up the hill to scattered, polite applause, apologizing to far more people than I care to remember. I was embarrassed; they were amused.
I realized in that moment how deeply I loved my child. I couldn’t think of logical consequences for a punishment, nor behavior plans. I doubt in that moment I even knew my own name, but I felt an overwhelming sense of love and knew nothing would keep me from chasing after him.
Perhaps that was for me a dim glimpse into the love that Paul writes of in his letter to the Romans.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 NRSV)
Absolutely nothing separates us from the love of God. God loves us in a deep and abiding sense. God, too, pursues us when we are headed the wrong way, flinging wide protective arms, even when we chose not to see them. When we finally turn to Him, He embraces us.
“Welcome home, little one! I’m glad you’ve stopped horsing around.”
Rev. Dr. Lorna Bradley is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, wife, and mother to a 23 year old son with Asperger’s. Lorna serves at The Hope and Healing Institute in Houston, creating tools for churches better welcome families with special needs. Her particular interest is providing parent support to increase family resilience. She also has a blog.