Thursday, May 5, 2011

In the Name of God

I'll call her "Jane."

Back at my old church, which Dan and I left 10 years ago for myriad reasons, we knew Jane and other members of her family. Jane was in her fifties, unmarried, rather socially awkward, mostly because she came across as very lonely and needy sometimes; someone who would hug too hard, breathe too much on you, quote too many scriptures in a well-intended but over-the-top way.

I had a soft spot for her. I could see the way people shied away from her, and I understood. Sometimes she was just too much. Once we left that church, I kept in touch with Jane a bit via letters and cards, and over time I forgot how...intense she could be. How very eager to spout a spiritual reason or solution for even the smallest of issues -- that is, until she found me on Facebook.

The other day on Facebook I posted a picture of Andy holding Ethan when he was a baby. And right away Jane asked if that was my son. She of course knew Andy back in the day, since my entire family had gone to that church. I told her yes and briefly mentioned Ethan also had autism, albeit a milder form. I then said he was doing well and in preschool and went on to talk about Anna, too.

I shouldn't have been surprised at the response I got from Jane, mostly in capital letters, of course. She mentioned how sorry she was about Ethan having autism. And then: WE NEED TO PRAY AND BIND THE SPIRIT THAT'S BEHIND THIS...AND BREAK ITS STRONGHOLD AT THE ROOT. IN THE POWER AND NAME OF JESUS! AMEN AND AMEN!

I have to say this. I am a Christian and I do believe in satan. I believe there is evil in this world and that things like cancer and yes, autism do not originate from God. I believe in prayer. I believe we need to take a stand against evil...and that comes in the form of the world, our own sin, and satan.

But.

Well, first off, and I know I sound nit-picky here. It has been a long week that has included Ethan getting stitches and Anna getting a cast on her arm, not enough sleep, and too much whining and overall bratty behavior in our house. So maybe I'm even more thin-skinned than usual.

The whole "I'm sorry" thing. It's weird...when close friends, or especially someone else who has a child with autism, tell me they're sorry about Ethan's diagnosis, that's one thing. When it's others, I can't explain it, but something just seems off. I didn't lose my son. He didn't die. So are they saying, "I'm sorry you didn't get the child you wanted or expected?" Maybe. Or maybe they are acknowledging, "I'm sorry this is going to be hard for you." I don't know, but what I hear when it comes from someone I'm not close to is, "I'm sorry your son is who he is." And when I read that and at the same time looked over at my big brown-eyed son who was giving me a huge smile while playing some goofy game with his sister, it was hard to feel sorry at that moment. Something about feeling sorry felt so wrong.

I've mentioned before: to me it's easier to say you are sorry for something like a person's cancer diagnosis than an autism diagnosis. Cancer is this foreign thing that's intruded, invaded a body, while autism is something that's sort of ever-present and woven throughout one's entire make-up. There are "good" and "bad" autism traits, and extracting some would leave the person entirely different than who they are.

But really it's this whole "stronghold" thing and autism that gets me. I realize there is some spiritual component to the bad things that happen in this world. But Jane's words seemed to skirt close to the concept of saying autism has a spiritual root.

This brings to mind all sorts of things: stories I've heard about people insisting on "casting the demon of autism" out of people; teachings on curses being carried down, which to me deepened my feeling that my family was under some sort of crushing curse; a long-ago church's claim that Andy's autism was punishment for my parents not "following God's will."

Autism in charismatic circles in sometimes viewed in ways you would not believe.

I've had to struggle a lot with this in the years, reconciling autism with my beliefs about God, healing, sin, satan, and God's perfect vs. permissive will. When I hear someone talking about how autism is a stronghold that's attacking my family, I find comfort in the simple words of a Christian counselor. I'd gone to her to talk about all of this, to get input on how to live out my faith when I'd seen so much Christian flakiness while still trying to trust in a God who wasn't always safe, but always good.

"There's this little voice that wants to tell me this happened to Ethan because I'm cursed, because my family's cursed," I told her. You would think this too, if you'd heard talk about generational curses and God punishing people who were out of His will, for a good portion of your life.

"It's not a curse, it's genetics," she said simply.

The whole vaccine debate aside here, those were words I desperately needed to hear. Sometimes in the Christian world, we just need some facts. Not everything needs to be bound and loosed. We live in a dark and fallen world, and because of that, things happen.

God always could heal but sometimes chooses not to, and it's not always because someone didn't have enough faith, or someone was not obedient. Sometimes He has other plans. And sometimes, maybe that miracle is still on its way.

This is what I would say to Jane, if I could. If I thought she would listen. If I thought she would hear me.

2 comments:

rhemashope said...

i've struggled with some of this as well and have had many well-meaning Christians say similar things to me. i can't say i've figured it all out, but like you i want to pray and seek God's Truth in it all.

thank goodness for that Christian counselor who simply stated the truth, the facts.

Happy Mother's day, Deb!

Deb said...

You too, sweet Jeneil!