I was pushing Rhema on a swing when two girls excitedly ran over to us.
“Wanna play with us? Wanna play with us?” they asked Rhema.
“Can we play with her?” the girls asked me.
You would think I’d be prepared for this, used to it by now, but I wasn’t quite sure of myself.
“Um… yeah,” I said, wishing that Rhema would magically possess social skills and play skills when I took her off the swing.
The girls attempted to talk to Rhema and “play” with her, but she ignored them, and in short order, took off running. The girls were confused, but we chased after Rhema. As I watched the two girls, I was intrigued by their typical-ness. They were Rhema’s age, and I paid attention to every word they said, every thing they did.
I wonder if I will ever get to a point where typical development no longer amazes me. I wonder if the day will come when I don’t feel that familiar twinge of sadness creep in when I see the things that children Rhema’s age can do. Will I ever get over it?
I tried to assist the girls as they attempted to play with Rhema, but it did not take long for them to realize that something was different.
One of the girls, named Mia, finally looked up at me and asked,
“Is she not a regular girl?”
I can talk just about anyone’s head off about autism … but this day I was thoroughly at a loss for words. “Well,” I stammered. “She has trouble talking and understanding everything you say… but she’s really very much like you. She loves to play and laugh and swing and…” (Rhema darted again) “… and run.”
The girls were not giving up; they continued to try to engage Rhema. When she ran off for the umpteenth time, Mia exclaimed in exasperation,
“Why did they make her this way???”
I was not put off by her words. She didn’t say it in a mean way, and she seemed genuinely frustrated for Rhema. In fact, I was kind of amused that she used the word they as if Rhema were a product made in China.
Before Mia took off, she looked at me and knowingly concluded, “It must have been something she ate.” She took off to find new friends.
Truth be told, in moments of frustration greater than Mia’s I have asked that question of God.
In her hospital room when a doctor looked at us and shrugged,
In the middle of the night when she shrieks,
While on my knees scrubbing up poop art,
During a major meltdown in public,
During a self-injurious, destructive phase,
When I cannot figure out for the life of me what she wants or needs,
When the non-stop vocal stimming is about to make me insane,
I have thrown my hands up and cried, Why did you make her this way?
I cannot say I know the answer fully. I think it’s something I’ll be learning about for all of life. But I know that it’s o.k. to be honest with God; I know He can handle my questions, my frustrations. Ps. 142:2 says, “I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.”
And I trust that He hears me. And sometimes that’s enough.
I will say this.
This autism thing could have consumed us. Not so long ago, I was close to being swallowed up in self-pity and bitterness. I could have let the anger and the stress destroy my marriage.
But God rescued me from despair.
And day by day, He delights me with the little, wonderful ways He’s made her – and is making her. He took my not-so-regular girl and, in many ways, made her my teacher. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Ps. 139:14