Spring Break week. Whew! It’s got me thinking…
I used to think I knew what it meant to serve Jesus Christ. My parents were missionaries, I saw first hand what it meant to give of oneself. Throughout high school and college, I stayed active in short term missions, and I saw the impact that giving my time had on other people. It was then I decided loving people for a living was what I wanted to do with my life. But what does that look like? In the beginning of my college years, I declared my major in Cross Cultural Communications and Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis on Urban-Inner City ministries. Later, I changed to Behavioral Science so I could study mental illness and psychology. After college, I continued to pursue missions and involve myself in whatever ministry opportunities I could find. Yep. I thought I knew what serving God was. That is…
…until I became a mom.
I always thought I was a pretty patient person…
…then I had kids.
I thought I was pretty good at making self-sacrificing decisions…
…then we hit the toddler stage.
With all my years of serving, I thought I knew how to serve God with reckless abandon….
…then came autism.
Once Autism’s shadow darkened our lives, I realized I had no idea what real patience was; what it meant to sacrifice what I want, even what I need, for the sake of someone else; or what true heart service looked like.
I remember the early years, staying home with two inconsolable screaming toddlers. I made sure they were safe before finding a corner in the office and collapsing in utter helplessness. I didn’t pray for patience then. I certainly didn’t have it in me to be self-sacrificing. And much too exhausted to even think about serving God, routine became my closest friend. Without a doubt, those were some of my weakest moments in my life. Don’t get me wrong; we had plenty of fun, too! But often in over my head, having no clue what to do, and feeling completely helpless, I crumpled up and cried.
And it was good.
Through the years, God met me in those lonely fetal positions. By the way, the fetal position is perfect for acknowledging and expressing humility! God provided opportunities to learn to thank Him in every scenario. He led me to Colossians 3:17:
“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (ESV)
By planting seeds of gratitude, patience began growing in my everyday life. Although two simultaneously screaming tots remained a daily occurrence, my love for them outgrew the inner tension I constantly felt. Instead of desperately looking for the calm in the storms of daily living, I thanked and leaned into God for His moment’s provision. And once I anchored my hope to Him, I became the calm for my sons. Then He led me to 2 Corinthians 10:31:
“So, whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (ESV)
This was a huge perspective shift. Every challenging moment was no longer for the sake of my sons or my sanity; everything I did was for God’s glory. This had a HUGE impact on my approach to parenting in the big picture as well as moment by moment. Although Noah’s and Judah’s behavior didn’t change, my behavior did. Whether their tantrums continued, the repetitive stimming remained, and constant rhythm of anticipation of every possible need carried on, all that mattered was glorifying God with my actions and speech towards Noah and Judah. As I practiced glorifying God in this way, my behavior became more predictable for them, which in turn, created an atmosphere of peace in our home.
Next, God led me to Philippians 1:6:
“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (ESV)
What a relief! He started this chapter, He will finish the entire book. Whatever God does is good, whether I enjoy it or it feels good or not. If He starts it, finishes it, AND it’s good, then I don’t have to worry about the outcome or making anything work. This is a HUGE weight off of me! Since I don’t know what my boys lives are supposed to look like, I’d be setting us all up for failure if I tried to “fix” the outcome. Whew!
So, how does this translate to today? Well, a decade has passed, and some of life’s seasons have come and gone. We are now beginning the season of the teenage years, and all of it still applies. The teenage years look a little different for our family that they do for most, and I sometimes find myself a little envious of others. But God is faithful to bring me back to these basics. And although I find myself constantly working on boundaries, I thank Him for boys who love without filters. Although potty training is mostly done, God continues to teach me that I am above nothing when it comes to glorifying Jesus Christ, even if that continues to include wiping poopie bottoms, cleaning out dirty underwear, and constantly disinfecting toilet seats and floors. My hope is that one day, they’ll be cleaning their own bottoms without disgracing the bathroom floors and what’s more, without my help. I don’t need to know the outcome today. I’m not the author of this story. I just need to continue learning to serve.
Some say, “Hey, that’s boys for ya.”
Others say, “That’s what disability looks like.”
For me, that’s what serving Jesus Christ looks like.