I read once that Grace is a teacher. And those who have experienced grace… are experiencing grace… learn to ask for help.
Hope had a birthday party to attend this weekend. Her little friend and her family are very dear to us.
Our friends live on a very busy street – it’s state highway, in fact. By the time we arrived, the only place to park was alongside the street in front of the house. Rhema’s side of the van faced the highway. Not a good scenario because Rhema has a routine – I’ve been trying to overcome it for months – she has this compulsion to run at least one wide lap around the van when she gets in or out. (If her hand is held firmly, we can prevent the run around. But you can imagine the danger of this in a parking lot).
No way was I going to open her side of the van and expose her to the oncoming traffic. I walked around to Hope’s side and opened her door, and as Hope was climbing out, I saw the alarm on Rhema’s face. I usually always come to Rhema’s side first to open the door and take her hand. This was a change in the order. Instantly she undid her belt, and to my horror pushed the power button on her door. I screamed and lunged across the seats and somehow grabbed her arm, slick with sunscreen. She was already out the door, standing on the pavement –it was only God’s grace that I caught her arm in time.
But I was stretched across the seats and she was fighting me, pulling, desperately trying to break free so she could run her lap around the van. I could hear the cars whizzing by us, couldn’t bring myself to look.
“Please, God! Don’t let me let go! Please, Rhema! Please, baby!” I think I was screaming. I knew that if she broke free, she would be hit by a car. No doubt. She had absolutely no understanding of the danger around her. I’ve been scared for Rhema before – she’s been lost on several occasions – but for the first time I really thought I might lose her and I’ve never been more scared in my life. Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing of all was looking into my girl’s face, pleading with everything in me, begging her to come to me, to hold on, and knowing… knowing that she wouldn’t.
There are no words to describe that feeling, that sense of pain and utter helplessness.
It was only grace again that gave me the strength to hold on to her arm while climbing over Hope’s seat, a birthday present (one of those really big, plush Beanie Ballz), a juice box and an empty McDonald’s bag, and a backpack (Sorry, B. I’ll clean out the van) to get to her. Then I had to practically wrestle her into the grass to keep her from running.
We still went to the party, lasted a little while. And the girls had a good time. I tried to be normal but I was still shaking, and I spent the whole time chasing Rhema afraid she’d run out the yard, for the highway.
My friend Laura had asked the day before: “How can I help? Do you want me to go to church with you guys? Do you need help at the birthday party?”
And I was all, “Oh no. We’re fine.”
“Yes! Thanks, we’re fine.”
Every summer when Brandon is gone (or every TDY or deployment), I go through this thing where I’m sure I can do it alone. It’s not easy for an intensely independent, Ivy League educated, capable (well, most of the time) woman to admit that she needs help, that she cannot go out in public and handle her own child by herself. As my friend Jess who knows me well said, it’s something I’ve been struggling to make peace with for years.
And some outings… Rhema is totally fine, some days are really good. Other days we go downhill fast, and there are too many close calls. She’s unpredictable, more so it seems, when her father is away.
I’ve reasoned that as she’s getting older, she’s maturing and gaining experience to navigate the world – I assumed we’d need less assistance. But as she gets older, stronger, more rigid – we actually need more help. I think deep down I didn’t want to be in “that category”, the one where the autism impacts us so much that I/we need a helper or an aide with us all the time.
I suppose I was in denial – until now. And there was some real pride underneath it all, and I’m not talking about the good pride.
But God’s amazing, preserving, never-letting-go grace is a teacher.
And at the point in the party where Rhema chewed all the buttons off her shirt and pooped in her pants and Hope slid down the Slip N’ Slide and busted her knee wide open, I said,
“O.k., Lord. I get it. I need help!”
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. ~Heb. 4:16
And I really could have wept right then, not because I was overwhelmed.
Because I kind of felt free.
Thank you, Father, for your work in me. Thank you for surrounding me with grace and help.