This morning I compared my son to a tadpole. Not, I confess, one of my stellar parenting moments. But more shocking than the fact I equated my first born to a pre-formed amphibian, is the happier fact that it succeeded in making him feel better. Stress and anxiety have taken their toll in recent weeks and we have been desperate to help him manage.
As is often the case, however, it has taken a long time to sift through the emotional and circumstantial layers to finally detect the actual thorn in his flesh. When his recent dips into depression, the outbursts, and the refusal to cooperate with even the things he usually loves, ultimately collided in a heated confrontation, I finally figured it out.
Change is hard for most of us, and for some teens, just newly graduated, even more so. Add a healthy dose of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and change can become paralyzing. Recently turned 19, my son is struggling to make sense of the changes going on inside him—the longing for purpose, direction and belonging—but also the fear of responsibility and the refusal to take it. In many ways, due to his disability, he is a 10-year-old boy living in a grown man’s body, capable of so much more than his pre-teen emotions allow him believe.
There is a point at which, like a transitioning tadpole, he is neither a free-swimming pollywog or a land-loving frog, but something in between. Is he supposed to swim? Or hop? Or do both?
My son was recently told about an amazing program in Plano, Texas, where those with ASD and a love for computers have a job they love, a professional environment that is suited to their unique needs and above all, a community of others where they finally feel “normal”. But there is no residential program and John’s ability to function on his own is greatly impaired. And so he is discouraged and anxious. Anxious about a future he may never realize and discouraged about a present that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere that makes sense.
But anxiety about change isn’t just a fear for those on the spectrum. It’s also a problem for this middle-aged mother. Like my son, I am asking what if and what now and what’s next about his life. Will he ever be able to live on his own? Will he ever get a job that is meaningful and purposeful?
Yesterday morning, just a few hours after my son and I had grappled with this problem and we went to church, God made it clear that He is well ahead of us. After the benediction, I remained in my seat as people filed out, to enjoy the music from the worship team, jamming on their guitars and singing just for the fun of it. Finally, I gathered my few things and looked up, surprised to see our pastor standing in front of me.
“John had mentioned that he wanted to go to Plano after graduation and I was just wondering if he knows anyone there?” he asked. “My in-laws live in a town nearby and have a wonderful church there who would probably be very willing to look out for your son and welcome him if you should need that.”
I’m sure I looked back at him like he’d just spoken Mandarin Chinese. I couldn’t believe it. We hadn’t shared our needs with our pastor in any detail, and he certainly knew nothing of the conversation that morning with my son, including the brilliant metaphor about frogs. And yet there it was, God’s answer to our unspoken prayers, reminding me that He is not only present in the here and now, but He is already present in our future. Even if I don’t know what that future holds.
“For the Lord your God is living among you, He is a mighty savior…With His love, He will calm all your fears.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Question: What in-between place of life may have you fearing those next steps? Or doubting God’s hand in the process of change? Talk to Him about it and see where He leads you.
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