I sit on the cold, gray carpet, rocking Jack in my lap.
“Hi Jack,” the pediatric neurologist says. “I’m going to ask your mommy a few questions, ok?”
Jack stares at him blankly.
The doctor reaches out his hand to offer him a high five. Jack squirms out of my lap, panicked at the thought of being touched, and throws himself on the floor between me and the doctor.
“Jack. It’s ok, honey. Just calm down,” I say as calmly as I can.
He runs over to the door, tries to twist the knob, and screams in frustration when he can’t open the door. Can’t escape.
“I’m getting a pretty good picture of what’s going on, but tell me Jack’s symptoms,” the doctor says.
While Jack continues to scream, I run through the list, “Jack has an outstanding vocabulary but doesn’t know how to use it functionally. He memorized every color from blue to maroon in one week but cannot choose between a red or a blue shirt without having an emotional breakdown. He can scale a ten foot rock climbing wall but can’t make it through our house without bumping into walls and doors and tables. He has an incomprehensibly high level of energy and cannot nap or sleep at night to rest. He has meltdowns that last for hours every day and he rocks obsessively. He cannot transition from one activity to the next, which means he is unable to attend preschool. He stuffs certain foods in his mouth until he chokes but cannot tolerate others for even a moment. He can recite Scripture and storybooks (up to 50 pages) to the letter, identify dinosaurs by their Latin names, and count to 100, but cannot engage in conversation or collaborative play with a peer.”
The doctor diligently types every word that tumbles from my mouth into a word document and proceeds to ask me dozens more questions.
45 minutes go by as he patiently talks through each of my answers and observations.
After completing the intake, he looks me in the eye and asks, “what do you think is going on with Jack?”
I know deep in my heart what is going on. I’ve known for months.
“I think Jack is on the spectrum,” the words come free as I release them from my heart to this man who holds the answer.
“Yes,” he says. “That is what this is.”
I exhale, hold Jack in my arms, and say, “Ok. What do we do?”
He provides me with a list of specialists and therapists in the Atlanta area.
“This is not an easy road,” he tells me. “But these therapies will help Jack.” He waits until I meet his eyes, then says, “And you.”
I gather my son and his things, load him in the car, and call Jeff.
“It’s autism, honey,” I tell him gently. “It’s autism.”
* * *
That was one year ago. One year ago, we dove into therapies, doctors visits, and specialist appointments. One year ago, I cradled my 6-month-old daughter in one arm, while I struggled with my 3-year-old son in the other. One year ago, Jeff traveled five days a week to Boston and slept on his office floor every night to save money for our son’s growing needs. One year ago, enraged and exhausted, I cursed God.
There’s an adage that says, “you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”
I’ve been in darkness.
I’ve been chronically ill, fighting pain, exhausted, and struggling to pay mounting bills. I’ve been a rude wife, a jealous friend, an angry mother, and a hollow Christian. I’ve let my temper get the best of me and life’s knocks break me.
I am broken.
January hits hard as I look back on my sins, but it also drives me. It pushes me to scale the walls of darkness to reach the heart of eternal Light and Salvation – Christ Jesus.
And these two hearts, His and mine, beat with endurance that will not be shaken.
I choose to offer the sins of my past – my doubt, my rage, my envy – to an Almighty God who forgives though I am unworthy. Who walks with me though I stumble. Who carries me though I fall.
I choose #peace. The radiant peace that only Christ can provide.