Well, today I start my first day of preschool. You see, I don't ever remember actually going to preschool, but this time I am going as an "educational assistant" with my son, Ricky.
Ricky has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum disorder, or for those unfamiliar with such language: he has autism. Through many hours of therapy (~30hrs/wk) organized by his mother and performed by volunteers from the church (thank you guys soooo much!) and students from the local colleges (thank you, too!!) Ricky has grown exponentially in his ability to function in everyday situations.
It was a little over a year ago when we started this type of therapy, called Applied Behavior Analysis. It's basically one-on-one repetitive learning. Ricky learns by being shown the same things over and over again over a longer period of time than a typical child. The reason that we chose this type of therapy was that is has been shown to work effectively in preparing a child to function in typical life situations. Our ABA specialist, Jenny Fischer from Bend, has been tremendous with Ricky (and with his dimwitted father!).
Last year, Ricky had begun to injure himself by hitting himself in the face or legs, slamming his head into things repetitively, or by scratching himself with his fingernails. Needless to say, we strongly felt (through many tears) that we had to do something more drastic than group time a few times a week. There was no fear like watching your own child hurt himself and you didn't know why and couldn't stop him. We actually had Ricky wearing a bike helmet and mittens so that he would not bruise himself. It seems everywhere we went someone was looking at us with a look in their eyes that said, "What have you done to your child?!!" And we live in Eugene, where the strange is normal!
I guess the reason that I'm writing this is because I have seen the goodness of God in all of this. Through much struggle and many trials (try having different people in your house for 30 hrs/week when you're an introvert by nature! I love all of you IA's!!!) I have seen my little boy move from a child who sits by the wall and bangs his head into a little boy who plays with stuffed animals and loves to laugh. He no longer hits himself, is learning sign language, is using a few words, and all-in-all seems quite typical apart from his inability to speak (Ricky also has cleft palatte and is recovering from his 4th surgery, which was 2 weeks ago).
Going to school with him this year will be a challenge for me. I know that the Lord is going to be teaching me true heart patience and humility. Being Ricky's shadow has a tendency to weigh heavily upon my heart because my sinful flesh tries to wrest control from the Lord. I put heavy burdens upon myself to "fix" Ricky. I consider it, in times of small faith, my job to make sure that he succeeds in this classroom. In the light of the gospel, however, my little boy is secure. I know that if God loves us enough that He gave His Son in our place, then He will not hold back anything else that we need to find our joy in Him.
If it's one thing that Jesus brought when he established His kingdom is that He loves the marginalized, the weak, the outcast. He healed lepers, ate with brigands, and exorcised the demonic. God loves the weak, and any success in my boy's life is going to be due to the power of the Holy Spirit transforming his mind and healing his body. Now, I work with all that I've got for the growth of my son, but in the end I know that it is not due my work, or Katie's work, but the very Creator of my boy's mind that is doing His work of recreation. What sin has decreated, God is in the business of recreating. In this promise I take great joy!! Though I do not know the details of what the future may hold for Ricky, I know with great confidence that Jesus is restoring and recreating him. God's Holy Spirit is powerful to effect transformation, I have seen it happen time and again in the lives of people. If He has promised, He will follow through, for God cannot be untruthful to Himself.
So, I go with trepidation to sit on the floor and sing songs and glue stuff to other stuff with my son whom I love. My heart is seizing more of what Jesus meant when He said that we must become like children in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Through great trials comes great humility and a desperate cry out to the Lord. When we are made powerless, then God shines in power, to His glory and His honor. If this struggle is what it takes for me to find my joy in the Lord, then I cherish it as my treasure. Deep repentance comes in such strange ways.
Lord, I want to learn patience, humility, and deep self-giving love. Bring it on at whatever the cost, that you may be worshipped in joy for your self-giving love in Christ.
Soli Dei Gloria,