Have you ever had one of those days (weeks, months) where you just felt like giving up?
Yup. I thought so. We all have days, weeks or months like that. Especially those of us who live with children or adults with significant disabilities.
Our son Joel, who has autism, has been having a rough time lately. A hospitalization for depression last fall. A 6 week manic spurt this spring that resulted in more agitation and aggression than we’ve seen in a couple of years. Our efforts to move him from one day program (which is exacerbating his anxiety) to another have been met with resistance, and suddenly we’re back into Mama and Papa Bear mode, fighting for our son’s rights. After 30 years, this kind of fight gets tiring. The adrenaline rush and depletion. The worry. The meetings. The negative words spoken about our child around the conference table.
Joel’s struggles, as well as the aftermath of my cancer journey pulled me into a depression this past winter. Even as spring burgeoned with electric greens and royal purples and skies blue enough to make a bride blush, the beauty didn’t reach my spirit. Oh yeah. Beautiful. Yawn. I need a nap.
Thanks to my spiritual director, a therapist, and medication, the beauty of a day like today—a day so bright and beautiful it looks like the first day of creation—reaches all the way down to my spirit and pulls out a long overdue Alleluia!
Thanks to the Body of Christ, where “each believer has received a gift that manifests the Spirit’s power and presence. That gift is given for the good of the whole community” (1 Cor. 12:7). At our little church, The Oxford Vineyard, others can see through the natural into the spiritual realm when my eyes and my husband’s eyes are clouded over with discouragement or depression.
During the entire month of April, Joel was unable to sit in church for more than a minute or two at a time. No one seemed to mind his going to the bathroom every 5 minutes, or standing in the aisle during worship, hands held high, punching the air with his fist, even breaking into fancy dance moves.
A couple of weeks ago, when Pastor John finished his sermon, Joel loudly pronounced “AMEN!” Then he walked up front and stood next to John. “You want to close us with a song today, Joel?” John asked. Joel grinned. And so Joel and John sang “This is the Day.” The congregation joined in, clapping hands. Everyone’s face was lit from within.
A few moments later a young man walked up front and gave his life to Christ.
Quite a morning in the Kingdom of God! My spirits lifted for the day, but the next morning it was back to reading email reports about Joel’s behaviors and making appointments with his psychiatrist and behavior specialist.
The following Friday my husband went to his prayer group and asked for prayer for Joel and for us, explaining that both of us were feeling discouraged as Joel’s parents, how I was struggling with depression, and how worried we were about Joel’s manic swings, which seemed to be worsening.
“I can only imagine what you’re going through,” Jeff said. “But did you see what happened at church on Sunday?”
“Yes, we love it when John invites Joel to sing,” Wally answered.
“No, I mean did you really see what happened on Sunday? Joel got up there and sang. The Holy Spirit fell. It was tangible! And then someone gave their life to Christ. The Spirit used Joel in a big way on Sunday!”
My husband came home and told me what Jeff had said. We held hands across the table and wept. There is so much going on in the spiritual realm that we can’t see with our earthly eyes, especially when the enemy clouds our vision with discouragement and depression. There’s power in the Body of Christ. There will always be someone in the Body of Christ who will have clarity of vision when we don’t. Someone like Jeff who can reach into our lives and say, Did you see what happened today? No? Well, let me tell you about it! It was tangible! It was real!
Reflection Question: Is there an area of your life with disability where your vision is clouded with discouragement, anxiety, or even depression? Consider asking someone from your church or a trusted prayer partner or friend to tell you what they see when they look at your child.