“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” – James 1:2-3
From time to time, I am approached by a parent who is looking for reassurance that their child does not have autism, or will not develop autism as the result of one thing or another. Most have no reason to suspect that there is anything out of the ordinary, but some do. While I’m happy to reassure concerned parents, it doesn’t escape me that what they are really saying is, “I’m afraid that I’m going to end up like you – that my child is going to end up like your child.”
I understand their fears. This is certainly not a road I would have embarked upon of my own choosing, but this is my answer to them.
This road is a mountain road. At the beginning it seems hopeless. You stand at the base looking up at the steep cliff above you and you want to give up, but there is no turning back, so you press on with each shaky, painful step.
It is a slow moving road. You strain and struggle for every foot – and sometimes for every inch. It can seem that for all your efforts, you’re standing still.
It is a lonely road. There are few other travelers. You can look down and see many people on the valley road, strolling along with a large company of friends and smiles on their faces. Occasionally, a passerby on the valley road will shout up words of encouragement, or a fellow traveler on the mountain road will throw down a rope and help pull you up to where they are. God bless them.
The paths on the mountain road are not well-marked. They are dark and overgrown with foliage. Sometimes you can’t tell which direction you are supposed to go – very different from the well-lit valley road with clearly-defined signs and boundaries.
The important thing to remember, however, is that while it’s a more difficult road, the mountain road is a good road. Slowly but surely, you are gaining ground. The terrain, while still rocky, does not seem quite so insurmountable. Your perseverance has made you stronger. Pressing onward is not so strenuous as it once was, and from the height you’ve achieved, you can see that many of those travelers on the valley road will soon reach their own mountain roads. Maybe you can throw them a rope like the other mountain climbers did for you.
You have a brand new perspective of the world – one you never would have had apart from the mountain road. You have come to appreciate that while it is not an easy road, there are magnificent sunrises, marvelous sunsets, and spectacular views that cannot be seen from the valley road. To have a mountaintop experience, it is necessary to climb a mountain. There is joy on the valley road, and there is joy on the mountain road, too.