March 1, 2010

Real Hope

The recent issue of Time magazine has an interesting article about Jenny McCarthy's activism regarding autism and vaccines. McCarthy is probably the most well-known or at least the most outspoken parent of a child with autism. Too, the article is written by Karl Greenfield, author of Boy Alone: A Brother's Memoir, a book describing his own family's experience with autism. These are two people who know what autism is like so their conversation and the subsequent article is interesting to someone like me who is in the same boat.

The gist of the article is that parents of children with autism are looking for hope. McCarthy says, "Hope is the greatest thing for moms of autism. Hope is what gets us out of bed in the morning. I'm on a mission to tell parents that there is a way." The author describes how mothers greet McCarthy everywhere--the airport, restaurants, talk-show sets--to ask for advice.

I have totally been there. As soon as the diagnosis came, I was scouring the internet looking for the "magic bullet" that would take away this monster that had infiltrated our family. I felt like I was drowning in sorrow (and information) and I just needed a little ray of hope.

That search for hope can be endless, especially when a child doesn't progress or is on the severe end of the spectrum. The author of the article says, "While I was reporting this story, I talked to my parents about what I was working on. They have been living with autism for the past 40 ears. My father listened and then told me to ask McCarthy about a specific alternative therapy he had heard about and was interested in trying on my 42-year old brother Noah. I thought about this as I was driving out to see...McCarthy and realized she was right: parents will never stop hoping."

As a parent of a child with autism, I will never stop hoping either. I hope that my son will continue to progress, have friends, and do well in school. But my foundational hope is not in a changing of my circumstances. What if he doesn't progress? What if he doesn't do well in school? What if he never has friends? My hope has to lie somewhere else than a future "cure" or a certain therapy. It has to be hope that can sustain any circumstance, related or unrelated to autism. My hope is in God for the good He can bring from the autism and for the eternal healing He will give Will in Heaven.

I want to be a person who has honest thoughts and emotions concerning my circumstances, but who also has active, unwavering hope. I will never say, “I’m trusting God because he will make my son better.” Instead, I will say, “I’m trusting God no matter what.” It’s simple to say, but with a flesh that cries out for comfort, happiness, and ease, I have to actively work at placing my heart in this posture of surrender before the Lord. I want a heart that, even when questioning my circumstances, says, “Yes, Lord.”
I did not come to this place until I learned to trust in the Person of Christ and His heart toward me rather than looking for what He could do for me. I know I’ll be disappointed if I trust in God to provide me with only comfortable circumstances, but I’ll never be disappointed if I look to God to be the source and object of my hope.