I am a planner (which is just a nice way of saying I like control). I am indebted to my smartphone’s beeps, alarms and to-do lists and I like the feeling of security it sometimes provides. In Kelli’s idealized rule book of life, I punch in “C-4” and out tumbles my Snickers.
But it’s all an illusion.
With disability in someone we love, God in His persistent mercy, gently wrestles that illusion of control out of our tight-fisted fingers day by day and challenges us with each crisis to make a choice. Will we live in the daily frustration of living according to the world’s definition of a successful life (that life we mapped out years in advance, complete with college degrees and a 2-car garage with 3.2 children)? Or will we live according to God’s assurance of a beautiful life that can only be lived with our eyes prayerfully focused on Him one day at a time?
A few nights ago that choice came into hard focus. (Apparently, this is one life lesson I have to keep relearning.) As I drove my car up and down the dark snowy streets of our neighborhood, I flicked my lights to bright, looking for traces of my teenage son who we discovered was missing along with his sleeping bag, his ipod Touch and his backpack.
On foot and by car, our family split up to search for him in the night’s sub-zero temperatures, going to all his favorite places, but with no success. Finally, my husband went to the police who, upon hearing that our son was also on the autism spectrum, shifted into higher gear and put out an APB to local officers. I remember praying at one point in the darkness, “Father, please redeem this somehow. Please keep him safe. Please teach me, teach him– please, please use this for something good.”
At 10:30 p.m. we received a call. The police had found him miles from our home, walking in the freezing cold along a highway with only a hoodie to keep him warm and clutching a backpack. What would we say to him when we saw him? What would we do when he stepped through the door? Hug him until he was breathless? Cry? Ground him for life? Listen? Lecture?
When the police left our home, and we were finally alone with our son, we both wrapped our arms around him, so relieved he was home and safe, and told him how much we loved him and how worried we had been. Then we asked the question “why” and braced ourselves for his angry pronouncement of parenting malpractice. But it never came.
When David finally spoke, his voice was quiet and contrite. He told us that he hadn’t meant to hurt us and that his leaving wasn’t about something we’d done. He had just felt so alone, even from God. The last time he had felt close to God it was at a Christian camp in the Wisconsin wilderness where he could be alone, out under the stars. So he put his sleeping bag into his backpack, along with a book from his discipleship group, put on some sneakers and a hoodie and went out into the cold night. If he couldn’t find God at home, he had reasoned, maybe he could find him at our local church.
I began to cry, not just from the stress of the evening, but because in a very strange way, I was so proud of him. And I was so grateful to God. This was the good God had redeemed from an awful night. My son had gone about it the wrong way, but he wanted to be close to God. Could there be a better reason to run away and terrify us than that?
God uses difficult and painful moments to draw us to Him. He drew my son. And through a difficult moment with my son, He is drawing me. One by one, as my fingers are pried loose from their parenting grip of 16 years I am discovering that God’s hand holds us still. And my job is to hold onto His, one day at a time.
“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28, NIV)
–Kelli Ra Anderson
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