Yesterday I dropped Josh off at his winter day camp at his autism therapy center. We walked into the waiting room where kids were meeting up with their one on one therapists for the day. As I took in the sights and sounds, I was inundated by a rich tangle of emotions all at once. These are a few of them:
Empathy. One tall, well dressed Asian dad with an ID card from a well known local high-tech company pleaded with his child. His clearly autistic son, about 5 years old, was not happy about being transferred to his therapist for the day. As the boy escalated into a full blown tantrum, I could feel the rising desperation of the father. "Please. Please Jacob." He begged his son. "Please don't do this. You'll be ok. Mommy will pick you up soon. Please, sweetie. Daddy has to go to work. Please." Compassion cut through me like a hot knife through butter. How many times have I experienced this very same "bad transition" moment? I could almost read this man's mind. He was probably thinking about what they could have, should have done to prep his son for the transition, knowing that it might not have mattered anyway. He was already dreading the costs that they might have to pay in the evening if his son had a bad day at the program. He was probably already late to work but couldn't wait to get there so he could feel like a normal person again with the possibility of experiencing competence and productivity. I offered a knowing smile but stayed out of the way and said a quick, silent prayer.
Pride. The whole time while this was happening, my own son was choosing to behave with shocking maturity. He chose a spot on a couch as far away as possible from the upset child. He stuck one finger in an ear then focused his attention on eating his apple. Oh, how far we've come on the journey of auditory sensitivity. There was a time when a situation like this could have resulted in hours of crying. Now, Josh is clearly not happy or relaxed but he is dealing with it. I'm filled with admiration for this kid who has had to work so hard to overcome so much. Over the past thirteen years, we have come so very, very, very far.
Anger. I could see in an instant that the younger sibling of another autistic child was typically developing. The three-ish year old girl had the intuitive sense that her brother was struggling and she knew to keep quiet and out of the way. She contented herself with reading some of the books which were available in the waiting room yet ignored by all of the autistic kids. She found a picture in a book that excited her and had an immediate impulse to share her discovery through pointing and eye contact. I watched her and saw how her brain was a meteor of learning, making cognitive and social connections by the second. I was gripped by the thought that it's so unfair that some kids get to have brains that almost seem to self-develop. Other kids, like my son, have brains that are so slow that they never learn their ABCs. Some kids are able to integrate the world around them and make growing sense of it. To others, the world is a places of constant threats and chaos. Why? How is that fair? It's not and sometimes it makes me so mad that I want to shake my fist at God.
A few minutes later I sat in my car, zombie like. These and other emotions swirled in my head, preventing me from driving to work and moving on with my day. How are you supposed to transition into being a centered, productive adult when moments like this assault you with such a barrage of emotions? How can I walk into my day without wearing all of these feelings on my person like heavy jewelry?
As I took a few slow breaths I sensed the ever-present invitation of Jesus: "Give me all of your thoughts and emotions. I will keep them safe."
Safe. Oh, yes. I closed my eyes and remembered the safety of the One who can handle every whirlwind. Jesus, He is not overwhelmed, even when I am. He always sees us with eyes of love, with attentive ears.
One by one, I let go of these disparate feelings and laid them at His feet. I felt my spine lighten as I shared my emotional load with the one who offers to yoke Himself with me.
How do you walk through life when you face intense moments of varied emotions? You must let the One who is your constant companion lead you. You accept that you are never alone and never left to carry even your momentary burdens by yourself.