Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Letter Written at Dawn

Dear John,
I wanted to thank you for you article "Real Freedom in Jesus."  I hesitate to send this since your post didn't include an email contact, but wanted to share a bit of my own story.  Please don't feel any need to reply.
My own son, Noah, is eleven and has severe autism and epilepsy. I can identify with your experience of bitterness--to that I would add fear.  The fear of Noah's autism was like a millstone around my neck.  Would he ever talk or communicate other than through piercing screams? Would I control my temper the next time I walked into a room to see him urinating on the carpet or smearing feces on the wall?  We tried our best to shoulder the burden.  We started ABA therapy when Noah was 2 1/2.  We did 40-50 hrs/wk of ABA therapy for 5 years. It was like climbing Everest without oxygen--and my wife carried the heaviest load.  Sometimes, many months of slow progress in communicating would suddenly evaporate in one week.  Wee took no time for grief, we would simply start over again.  
Where autism brought fatigue and aching fear of the future, Noah's full-body seizures brought minutes of terror--2 minutes, 5, 10, 15 minutes--how long could a small boy's body convulse while we could do nothing but watch and feel helpless?  Gratefully, the seizures did not come often--every 2-4 weeks.  Eventually we found a medication that was effective for Noah.
There were friends and relatives that were caring and helpful, but we still felt very alone and Autism exposed limits of our strength.  It took our marriage to the brink of divorce, it buried us in debt, it left us with little time or energy for our three other children. It left me in deep depression--At some point, I became the soldier crouched in the bunker unable to move, while my wife charged on.  Anti-depressants were some help, but for a couple of years I was in a survival mode--our whole family was.
Then, three years ago, a pastor/friend dropped a line into the dark well of my depression. He invited me to grieve and he wept with me.  He also challenged me about my self-pity and sometimes suicidal thoughts--exposing them for the sin they were. Most of all he consistently reminded me of the biblical truths that God cares deeply for Noah, for my family, and for me, that Christ understands suffering, and Christ is a secure refuge.  Joni Erickson-Tada's book "When God Weeps" was a great help.  We also did some counseling sessions to explore the roots of my fears and feelings of shame about my own weaknesses. 
God in his kindness has caused me to perservere more and more by faith and less by my own strength.  Over the last two years our marriage has begun to heal, but the wounds are very deep and much more work to be done.  Noah has learned to communicate with a combination of spoken and written words.  He uses the bathroom and can microwave a mini-pizza.  He can follow simple instructions.  He's happy most of the time--screaming and crying is rare.  His laughter often fills the house as he watches  a Veggie Tales movie that is as funny to him today as it was the first time he saw it 8 years ago.  He also comes to find me or his mother or sibblings and asks us to come and sit with him and laugh or sing along with the movie.  He sits with us in church and only rarely interrupts the service with laughter or a request like "tickle my arm pit!" Our congregation is very understanding.  A young couple in our church have a two-year-old that may have autism.  If so, I hope we can offer them the same help and comfort in God that we have received
Christ's grace is sufficient for today and a certain hope for the future.   May God bless you and your son all the days of your lives and surely you will dwell in the house of the Lord together forever.
Dave Eland

No comments:

Post a Comment