Sunday, April 8, 2012

Step 8: The very best of autism!

Easter Sunday...

Much like Step Six was in sharing about how all the worst things about autism collided for me in one horrific scene and how I, in a very fraction of a way, related that to Good Friday and Jesus being crucified on a cross which for him represented all of the very worst of a society and a world of sin; Easter Sunday and how Jesus rose from the grave represents all the very best things in a God who so loved the world; and today for me, in all the very best of autism and how we love our son.

Today is a day where Jesus defied death.  Where he rose from the grave.  A day where darkness became light.  A day to share about how our family has defied a diagnosis of autism in not seeing it as the end of our world as we knew it, but rather the beginning of a new one. And so for this day, this step in our family's autism awareness journey for April, National Autism Awareness month, I will attempt to capture the essence of what we feel is the very best that autism has brought out in our son, in us, in our life. 

How in the darkness of a diagnosis of autism, we have found light. How each and every day we defy a death that society would like to heap on our son... That he can't learn, that he doesn't belong with his peers, that he should be discriminated against, etc, etc, etc. 

Today is a day to proclaim from the highest mountain how we have defied so very many "he never will's" and "he can't's."  Try to tell this Christian Warrior Mom of Autism that her son can't or won't do something, and I'll show you an empty grave of the Savior who defied death and gave me the Hopeism to say he can! He will!  You don't tell warrior mom's what their kids can't do!  That is the essence of the very best of autism, in how our kids defy so many odds.  It make take a whole lot longer, and for some in many ways there will never be complete healing, but oh the progress you will see in the meantime!  The many, many miracles as well as daily inspiration you will be in awe of through the journey!

In my blog, "Life with Autism" I have written numerous stories that capture the light and inspiration that is our son.  What very good he has brought us from the very bad that was his diagnosis of autism.  I sit here at an absolute loss for words in trying to summarize all those writings.  I want a new parent who happens across this to drink in these words so that when they may have their own "worst day of autism" they can be reminded that always, always, always, -- the very best of autism will pierce through any darkest of days autism brings!  I want the person who doesn't have autism in their life, to realize how autism truly does make you a deeper person, a better person, and without even having a dime to your name, -- the richest person.  No other anything can shape a persons character like autism can.  No other anything can help you truly see what matters in life, who matters most in life.  And how very much each person matters in life.

I guess if there was one word in how my son shines his bright light into our lives, it would be transparency.  I have been in countless Sunday School, Bible Study, Discipleship classes and church services over the years, and I can honestly say that through none of that have I learned about God more than I have through just being Brandon's mom.  Seeing through my son directly into God's words as written in the Bible.  And the first word I come to is unconditional love.  I have never known such unconditional love!  I would imagine if not for Brandon, no matter how many times I would read about that kind of love, I would have never truly known it had I not personally experienced it through Brandon.  He is shunned from society many times because he his deemed unworthy, broken, someone to be fixed, -- yet he possesses what the very people in that society crave most:  the perfection of unconditional love.   He doesn't love someone just to get something from them. He simply loves.  I have never, ever understood how God could love a people who do not love him in return, who take that love for granted.  Until Brandon taught me love.  How I love him just because he's my son.  Not for what he says or does for me,  - because in my case this is a one-sided expression of love. He can't say he loves me. He can't buy me a gift that shows how much he loves me.  Other than an occasional moment when he allows me to hug him, I don't even get a reciprocation of love from him. There are no strings attached to the kind of unconditional love a child with autism teaches you about.  There is simply, "I love you, no matter what. I will stand by you, no matter what."  Many people spend a lifetime looking for the kind of love a child with autism can show them!

To be able to see the world through his innocent eyes is a gift I'll always cherish.  The world through his innocence is a world that does not know hatred or deceit, war or poverty, or even discrimination.  There is no malicious intent in Brandon.  He is not tainted by mistrust or betrayal.  He is not ever ashamed of who he is or what disability he has.  He does not live a life where he feels he needs to perform or please or impress anyone.  He simply has the innocence to laugh when tickled or happy, and cry when hurt or scared.  He has the purity to only see beauty, not ugliness.

He lives for the moment.  In his mind there is no stress of not having enough hours in the day.  There is no deadline to stress over meeting or missing.  For him, there is no tomorrow or yesterday, only today.  The right here and right now of this moment.  He does not worry about things that he cannot change or control.  There are no could have's or should have's in his world.  He goes to bed with no worries of what tomorrow will bring, and he wakes up with no regrets or grudges carried over from yesterday.

The very best of autism is how he has taught us to embrace all of that and more in our own lives.  To change our standard of success from society's, to simply ours.  To God's.  He has never been on a baseball team where we could cheer him on, but the day he sat still and didn't fight a haircut, you couldn't find a parent on this earth who was more proud.

The very best of autism is how he has given us a passion, a mission, a true sense of what to work toward.  A truer sense of what the big things are and what the little things aren't.

Perhaps the very best of autism for us is how it took away what the very worst of us was --- selfishness and shallowness.  It's no longer about working toward what we want, but rather what someone else needs.  We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  And Brandon has shown us how.  I daresay the personal rewards of that have far outweighed what any vacation, summer home, or two income worldly anything could have given us.  His autism has made us deeper.  We love more richly and laugh more heartily.  Our joys extend higher and our sorrows go deeper.

We will never again see a wrong and not stop in our tracks to do what we can to make it right.
We will never again be ungrateful.
We will never again take things for granted.

Brandon's autism has shown us that within each of us is a strength, an endurance, that we would have never known otherwise.  And I'm sure that even as deep within us as we've had to dig because of autism, there is still room to dig deeper. That is the very best that autism brings out. A voice that will never again remain silent in the face of discrimination, injustice, bullying.  Our son's silence has broken our silence of complacency, indifference.

Brandon sings a beautiful melody of hope.  He speaks volumes, though not ever with words.  He  has come into our life and has touched our soul and has given us a hope we have never known before.
When I sit back and consider all these very best things Brandon is and has taught us about his world, I know that while I will continue to do the very best I can to teach him how to be more a part of our world, how to achieve the highest potential he can in our world -- I will know that in so many of the very best ways in this life that count, his world is better.

The very best of autism is in how it taught us he wasn't the one who was broken and needed to be fixed, --- we were.

In how if asked the question if we wished our son never had autism in the first place, before answering we would pause.  And for us it would be a very long pause as we consider all the very best that autism has brought into our lives that we would have never, ever, ever, ever experienced otherwise.