I am sorry that it has been so long since I have posted a blog entry. Ministry, school, teaching, and family commitments have kept me from touching base for a while. In addition to my counseling ministry, I have now begun serving as a guest on a local Christian radio show where I discuss mental health issues in the church. On my first show, in the middle of one of my responses, I received a text message from a friend of mine named Aaron. (By the way, Aaron should have been called Barnabas for his continual encouragement since he showers me with it at every opportunity.) If I recall the message it went something like this, “Cheer up, even though the host isn’t letting you talk, there are only three of us listening anyway!”
Oh, did I also mention that Aaron and his bride Susanne are the proud parents of three beautiful daughters (thank the Lord, they look like their mother) and that their youngest daughter has autism and is classmates with our son Fletcher? I bring this up to show that God often provides fellow travelers who come alongside us as we negotiate the unpredictable twists and turns presented to those blessed enough to have a child with a hidden disability. The scriptures say, “As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another,” and although our wives would agree that we’re both still pretty dull, I think that our weekly lunch meetings are producing spiritual growth in both of us.
In this sanctifying process, you might ask, “What deep theological truths related to autism are you guys discovering?” Well the topics vary, but you may hear something about Tennessee football, Wayne Grudem’s height, which of us would look the coolest with Puritan hair, fully-sanctified wives, or self-parenting children, but you won’t hear a whole lot about autism. Why? Because that is a subject that has so indelibly marked us that we usually find it is unnecessary to discuss; however, what you will find is a great deal of humor, fellowship, and laughing. As a result, the tone of our lunch meetings looks less like a pity party and more like a diner scene from Seinfeld.
Don’t misunderstand me. We talk a great deal about Sarah and Fletcher; but, we talk about them as people not diagnostic labels. As I think about these lunchtime conversations with Aaron, his sarcastic wit and dry humor remind me that Dads sporting these indelible marks are so much more than fathers of children with autism. These guys are administrators of God’s grace (1 Pet 4:10) used by God for our good and His glory as they walk alongside of fellow sufferers along a life path not of their choosing. What does this mean for those of you reading this post? It means this: do not isolate yourself; instead reach out to other parents of children with similar challenges. Ask God to use you to minister to them and I will guarantee you that you will end up being the one who feels blessed. And who knows, you may strike up a friendship with a Barnabas of your own!