Free drinks


Recently I’ve caught glimpses of my young girl dealing with frustration, remorse, disappointment in herself and her body. Though we cannot communicate in words, I see a child who deeply wants to be with her family, desires to do well in public, desperately wants to control her body and emotions, but she cannot. She lashes out, she grabs, she cowers, she flops, she fights.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15

It’s sad to see this awareness of failure in her, the momentary defeat in her big brown eyes. It triggers a pain I know all too well; how much time I’ve spent fighting the ghosts of shame, the brokenness and grief of past sin.

The internal questions stone us:

How, dear God, how could I have done that?

How could I have failed again?

Will I ever break these chains?


At the amusement park, I managed to get her onto the kiddie boat ride. She was too big and too old, but mercifully the ride operator did not object when I put Rhema in the little boat. I fumbled with her belt, stretching it to fit, praying she would stay seated.

I hurried to the sidelines and the ride began. The music played and parents called out to their toddlers. I took a deep breath, our time at the park had not gone well – in fact, every moment had been a spirit-crushing struggle. For now I was relieved she’d made it onto the ride and I had a moment to prepare for the next battle (as soon as the ride ended).

Then the operator shouted, “Oh no! Don’t do that!”

I looked up to find my eight-year old leaning over the side of the boat blissfully splashing water and shoveling it into her mouth as if she’d been in the desert for forty days and nights.

“Oh! Rhema!”

I ran over to the operator and explained that my daughter has autism and that all shouting was futile.

“Oh, well,” she chuckled. “The water’s not clean obviously. But if it’s any consolation, it is chlorinated -”

We watched as she began gulping scoops of dirty water from inside the boat.

“…But I can’t speak for the water inside the boat.”

I winced. Then I laughed. (She’s ingested much worse).

As the ride went around, Rhema let out a shriek that sounded like, Dude, thanks for putting me on this ride! I sure was thirsty!

It struck me how joyfully, utterly free she was.

“When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.

Spattering, guzzling, rocking, screaming Rhema lived that kiddie boat ride. More than anyone in the park, I’m sure. She’s known the dark, but she’s never lost the light. She trusts that she is mine. And no matter how hard she falls, how bitter the fight, at her best, at her worst, I will be all there. I’m so glad she knows I’m there. With more grace and more love than I can measure, because God pours it in.

So like her…

we’ll just have to believe.

Splash in His inexhaustible love, gulp down His good grace, let forgiveness flood our soul.

And be free.


Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free.”

~Hymn, Before The Throne of God Above

11 thoughts on “Free drinks

  1. Once again I have no words for your beautiful words. You will never know how much this post touched my soul this morning. How your words and His words were balm for this mom. I thank my dear friend…..thank you.

  2. Amazing beauty found in a boat ride . . . Rhema may not be able to speak her words to me, but God has given her a mother who can. You both teach me how to live.


  3. I am always amazed at how you find the lesson, the meaning in what can look like just chaos. For those of us who do not have that gift, it is so helpful to see through your eyes what can be learned from our children.

    On a funnier note, we put Ian on boats just like that this weekend, too. And he loved them, as well. He wanted #5. We don’t know why. For all the water that Rhema lapped up, I think he left enough spit in his boat to make up for it. To each his own!

  4. I oftern read your words of encouragement and poetry and see the love of God through a mother’s heart. I am forever blessed by what others may see as a struggle but you see as a continuing journey of love.

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