Tuesday, April 26, 2011

No Conditions

Two scenes:

On vacation, we approach the mini-golf place, one of those over-the-top touristy greens with a waterfall, bridges, caves, and (this was new!) a train to take to the starting point. I'm full of trepidation, wondering if Ethan can do it, wondering if I should go separately with him and play up the fun of putting the ball in the hole (he adores holes), but soon I realize there's no need. Yes, he's impatient and wanders a bit and doesn't hit the ball the right way and wants to steal other people's balls, but overall he GETS the general concept, and even better, he LIKES it. I feel a sense of victory. I'm all smiles, thinking about another obstacle reached, another family activity we can feasibly do together, something else we are not restricted from.

The other, back home from vacation, in our play room. I have spoken about this before. There are toys in bins and baskets and on the shelves, puzzles and books and musical instruments and computer games. Ethan decides he does not want to play with them but to crash and smash them. Blocks go everywhere. The books are tipped over. The toy food from the kitchen is spread all over the place. The new gear toy is not put together but dumped out. Everything is mixed together, and I hear the familiar voice tell me that it's a shame we have all of these toys and they're not being played with, or even worse, the voice taunts that maybe Ethan will never really learn how to play with toys. I find myself angry, annoyed, discouraged.

It's a mixed bag, this autism thing. More than that, it's a choice -- what to dwell on? The successes or the areas that are slow to improve? And today, I was reminded that it's a revealer of the heart.

I am doing a Beth Moore Bible study on David. In today's lesson she made the point that our righteousness is not based on our behavior, but our belief. This screamed out at me from the DVD we were all watching. "This is a little hard to swallow, I know," she said, "for the Pharisee in all of us."

The Pharisees were all about conditions. They were all about outward appearances and coming across as holy and doing all of the "right" things, no matter how dark and callous their insides actually were.

"A performance mentality," is what our old church used to call it, using big "Christanese" from the nineties. This meant you did things to earn God's love rather than remembering His grace. You lived as if love was conditional. And maybe, you loved conditionally too.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating Ethan's successes, but some days I have to stop myself. I have to think about where my joy or frustration is coming from. I have to make sure I'm not mixing that up with love.

I was one of those "goody two shoes" kids who got good grades and never made any trouble. Sometimes I wish I had, because maybe I needed a chance to really mess up to realize that I was completely loved despite my failings...and even if my parents weren't able to provide that kind of unconditional support, God would have. Sometimes I feel as if I need to dip into that river of complete grace, because without receiving it, we can find it difficult to extend to others.

After the study today, I was painfully reminded of the way my feelings about others, even my own family, even my son, are sometimes based on how their actions are making me feel. That's love with conditions. That's the Pharisee in me.

What do I do? I asked God, honestly. I was asking specifically about my ongoing frustration with Ethan not playing the way I wanted him to play, but I could have asked, what do I do when Ethan's not doing what I want him to be doing, or Dan, or friends, or whomever?

Let it go, was the answer that quickly came. Just that. God's answers are often simple but not easy. Let go of the control, of the conditions, of my agenda. Like I wrote when I started this blog, open up my arms and let all of that go. But hold on to the grace. Learn to receive His love without conditions...then learn to gracefully extend it, like an open hand.

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