Of Gravity and Grace

Sometimes, the weight of life seems to disobey the laws of gravity.  Between moments of lighter than air joy and the steady burden of daily living, there are moments when life seems so heavy that you nearly buckle under its weight.  Everyone probably experiences that, especially if your own burden is a little different from average.  Parents of special needs children know exactly what I am talking about.

Sometimes, the simplest thing becomes a massive chore.  Most people look forward to an outing—a trip to the mall, a park, the zoo—but if your child is on the autism spectrum, it may mean meltdowns, running away and getting lost without warning, and a general loss of any semblance of a pleasant day because you must act more as a guard than as a companion.  Of course, every child is like this to some extent. But when you add an autism spectrum disorder, you multiply the downside several fold.  And among the worst aspects of it all are the constant stares and glares from people who think you’re just a bad parent and your child is just an evil brat.

Admittedly, there are times when I think, to my shame and to my son’s hurt, that he is indeed just an unpleasant person who will only get worse with age.

But that is such wrong thinking that I become ashamed even more.  I am neither a prophet, nor the son of a prophet.  I cannot see the future nor do I speak for the Almighty. 

In reality, sometimes I cannot even see the present.

So when people of my own faith heritage begin pontificating on things they have seen in the world at large, sometimes those observations—no, make that “condemnations”—hit a little too close to home.  I have heard and read broad, sweeping comments that are more about judgmental superiority than about compassion, mercy and understanding.  At some point in my life, I probably did the same.  But I cannot view situations any more as I once did.  My perspective has changed with being on the receiving end of those remarks.

There are many times after a particularly hard day, I sit down and think, as so many do in my situation and probably much, much worse cases, “Why me?  What did I do to deserve this?  God, please make it all go away and give me a normal life!”

And then it hits me: I haven’t really asked for anything for my son who knows nothing but his daily experience of autism, or my wife who has bravely soldiered on from the earliest sign of his condition, or my dear, beautiful daughter who all too often gets lost in the autism tempest, a victim en passant.

I have only been focusing on myself, and praying to make my life easier.  And I become even more ashamed.

But I shouldn’t be ashamed.  Not because my son is autistic: that is beyond my control.  Not for his public displays: in most cases, they are beyond his control, because he has been over-stimulated by his surroundings and can’t process the incoming data in an effective way.

No, I should remember what Paul was told when he petitioned the Christ that his weakness, his “thorn in the flesh” that served as an ever-present reminder of weakness, the “messenger of Satan” to constantly harass him, be taken away.  Jesus pointedly reminded him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (I Corinthians 12.9)

I am by no means suggesting I am the equal of the apostle.  My charge in life is not to be an ambassador in chains for the gospel.  It is to be a husband and father, a teacher of science and a student of life.

While Paul’s context deals with the temptation to succumb to worldly displays and carnal actions, his principle is broadly applicable where he reminds the Corinthians that, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  (I Corinthians 10.13)

The challenge to anyone facing any temptation or trial is to relinquish the focus on the particular trying issue and open ourselves to seeing the “way of escape.”  And while that way may seem impassable, remembering Jesus’ words to Paul may ease the passage: “My grace is sufficient for you….”

When life becomes a burden, grace can lift it, and make it bearable.  Remember the words of John Newton: “T’is grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”  The usual view of “home” is Heaven.  But home is safety, and warmth, and love, regardless of circumstance, whether here on earth or there in Heaven.  Maybe we should be content in the knowledge that wherever grace is, we are as good as home, wrapped in the love and comfort of a loving Father.  By receiving that grace, we can take courage and strength and give that same quality of grace to others—especially to those whose lives have defined ours in such dramatic and sweeping ways.

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2 Responses to Of Gravity and Grace

  1. Marion Pitts says:

    Beautiful message!

    • Darrell Ray says:

      Thanks, Marion! I know you have an idea of the kinds of things I wrote about. The more people know about these conditions, the greater understanding they may be able to show. It would be nice if we lived in a world where “different” really isn’t different, at least not to be viewed so negatively.

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