(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 16 of Just Enough Light For The Step I'm On. Please know that what we all learn in a study is usually different. Therefore, we ask, if you feel like it, please leave what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)
Chapter 16, Traveling Through the Dark Moments of Relationships hit home with me on so many levels. Having a child with autism impacts every area of our lives, including each and every one of our relationships. From our relationship with our self and our God to the way we relate to complete strangers, this journey with autism changes our dealings with others.
Stormie does a good job of explaining the ways that the enemy undermines our relationships with strife. On page 136, she writes, “The enemy of our soul does not want our relationships to work. He knows that as our relationships are destroyed, so too will be our strength and effectiveness.” It is all too easy for a disagreement between friends, spouses, with our children or others to completely drain us of our valuable energy and hope. It can be so easy to become and stay so preoccupied with our own position that we can’t see or hear what God wants us to do. I know because I’ve been there. For a great deal of my life I have been preoccupied with what others think and tried to be pleasing to everyone else, when the most important person I should concern myself with pleasing is God. Stormie gives us some valuable tools to keep our relationships pleasing to God and for resolving strife/withstanding attacks of the enemy. On page 140, she states: The best way to protect all of your relationships is to make sure your primary relationship is with the Lord. Then commit each of your relationships to God and ask Him to be the Lord over all of them. I have a lot to learn in this area but this chapter helped me see that it is always important to put God first, and to set aside my point of view so that I can see the situation from His point of view. This will be the only way that God can accomplish His plan for our lives. We must first acknowledge that His plan is far greater than any plan we could conceive for ourselves.
Having a child with autism impacts every area of our lives and can strain every relationship that we have. Stormie focuses a lot on relationships within marriage and also between a parent and child. Though there are so many other relationships that are affected, I want to also focus on these two, very primary relationships in our lives.
First, autism most definitely does put an extra strain on a marriage. Within a healthy marriage, compromise between two different viewpoints is often difficult in the context of everyday life stressors. In my opinion, autism seems to magnify this. My husband and I do see Matthew’s autism from two different viewpoints. This means that sensitive decisions regarding finances, therapies, treatments are that much more difficult to reach without strife. Add in some sleep deprivation, behavioral challenges and financial strain and our positions can become intensified and more urgent. It is no wonder that the divorce rate is even higher among families with autistic children. Stormie reminds us that Problems in any marriage require a special portion of God’s grace and revelation for each moment. We must ask God every day to take our hopes, expectations, dreams and disappointments, and give us more of His love, patience, kindness, and a willingness to sacrifice. (p.139). I know that there isn’t a day where I don’t need God’s love, patience and kindness in dealing with my daily challenges. Stormie showed me that the key to this is being willing to sacrifice what I want so that I can learn what God wants. Then and only then can he give me what I truly need to help the situation at hand.
Autism also impacts our relationships with our children. We have preconceived notions of what our child should be able to do and how our parenting should be carried out. The first step to helping our children is letting go of this so that we can understand and learn what is truly best for them. We surrender our dreams and wants so that God can give us the wisdom and insight to do what is best for them. This is an incredibly painful process, and involves tremendous and ongoing give-and-take between ourselves and God. If our child has a sibling, the sibling is directly impacted, not only by the stress level but also by the many demands resulting from the needs of autism. Even our best efforts make it extremely difficult (and sometimes downright impossible) to meet everyone’s needs. This can open the door to strife in relationships with all of our children. Just as we do with our child with autism, we also have to surrender our dreams and expectations, as well as the needs of their siblings so that God can illuminate and work in these relationships as well.
When we walk step by step with God through each crisis, we will see Him do a miraculous work of transforming, restoring and healing. (p.139) I pray for these works in my life in so many ways. There isn’t a relationship or situation that we don’t need God’s help with. There also isn’t anything that God can’t do to accomplish these things. My prayer is that we can line up our will with God’s so that He can bring about the transformation, restoration and healing we need in all of our relationships.
“But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” -Matthew 6:33
“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” –Psalm 34:10
“In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory.”