|What is the thorn in your flesh?|
In my previous post, I spoke a little about Luke’s healing. Today, I’m going to talk about mine. I struggled with whether or not to write this post. It’s deeply personal, and full of raw honesty about my experience as a spectrum parent up to this point – not the things that happened to me, but the things that happened in me; however, in recent days, I keep coming into contact with faithful followers of Christ who, despite very different circumstances are struggling with very similar feelings. So ultimately, I determined that it had to be written. The applications were too broad. This touched everyone.
Intrigued? Before you keep reading, I want to ask you a question. What is the thorn in your flesh? What is the one thing in your life that you tell yourself, “If only this were different, my life would be happy.” Are you thinking of it? Good. Now keep reading.
I’ll admit to being a bit of a Pollyanna by nature. Even in my darkest moments, I will find something to be glad about, and in the immediate days after Luke’s diagnosis, the thing I was glad about was that God was going to use autism to draw me closer to Him. I mean, the verses in Scripture were abundant:
A longing this deep is transforming. You are forever changed as a result of it, and something did happen to me. Something which utterly bewildered me. Very slowly and almost imperceptibly, my heart began to harden. I still don’t know when, but somewhere along the way I shook my fist at God and said, “Ok, if You aren’t going to do what I’m asking, FINE!” In the innermost places of my heart I found myself acting like a rebellious teenager, doing as I must to maintain a level of peace in my Father’s house, but inwardly distant.
I can’t imagine that I’m the only one. I can’t imagine that out there others haven’t prayed for the thorn in their flesh to be removed, only to fold their arms at Him in defiance when they are not relieved of their pain, or sickness, or temptation.
In quiet moments, I could still hear His voice whispering to me – gently tugging at my heart – saying, ‘You come near to Me with your mouth and honor Me with your lips, but your heart is far from Me.’ (Isaiah 29:13)
It took several weeks of listening to this underlying message for me to finally connect the dots.
See, in all of those months of prayer, I approached Christ like my heavenly customer service representative. I was filing my complaints and making my demands, and when my expectations weren’t met to my satisfaction, in my timing and according to my terms, I was angry and frustrated.
Are you catching my not-so-subtle hint? I wanted my will – not God’s – for my child.
Instead, I needed to learn to come to God as my Lord and Master, who does all things according to His pleasure, for His glory and our ultimate good – His will for His child that He has temporarily entrusted to my care.
All spectrum parents love to hear the triumphant stories about complete healing from autism, but the truth remains that for most of us, our children will remain autistic. So there is a real sense in which my ministry is much more powerful if I’m still in the struggle – if I’m still one of you. For this reason, I can make peace with my thorn in the flesh, knowing that I am more equipped to bring hope and comfort to others in my current state.
I still pray, “Lord, please heal my son.” but I pray it differently now. I pray it as one who knows that God has already answered my prayer. I am simply waiting for its fulfillment – if not in this momentary life, then in the eternal life to come.
Our trials can make us better, or they can make us bitter. I must remind myself daily that God is God and I am not, and that suffering sweetens our hope of Heaven, turns our tests into testimonies and our mistakes into ministries. I’m still working on reigning in my rebellious teenager. She still makes an appearance on occasion, but I know that until He wipes away all my tears, His grace is sufficient for me.