Yesterday, we shared Part One of an interview Katie Wetherbee conducted with Chuck Swindoll and his daughter Colleen for last fall’s Inclusion Fusion in which they discussed the different ways in which their family had been impacted by having a child (Jonathan) with autism. Here’s Part Two of the interview, followed by the content of the guest blog Colleen wrote last year for Autism Awareness Day…
Here’s Colleen’s guest post from Autism Awareness Day 2011:
Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Hopeful. Bewildered. Relieved. Words that represented my feelings leaving the doctor’s office that day; and feelings that wave through my soul like the sea swells through the oceans. My son was diagnosed with Autism 12 years ago; 1 in 10,000 children were diagnosed with the same lifelong, no cure disability. The icy, windy winter afternoon, it was clear that Jon’s life, my life, and all of life would not fit the picture I had painted.
In it all, I want you to know, you are not alone. Finding a “new normal” is not easy. Life is challenging. But you are never alone. There is much loneliness, but you are not alone. Jesus Christ experienced everything you endure; He walked through the anguish and walks with you today. He encountered social battering, religious rejection, and was betrayed by His closest friends. Christ had siblings who didn’t understand their brother. He wept, He begged God to find another way, and eventually, He was killed. But, that was NOT the end of his life; this was the beginning of life eternal.
Today, 13 years into Jon’s life, his complicated disabilities have not been reduced, they have grown. His diagnosis includes: severe Tourette ’s syndrome, autism, intellectual and global developmental disabilities, ADHD, OCD, ODD, and complicated trauma syndrome. He has endured bullying and profound mistreatment. Yet, in it all, I have more freedom, more joy, more hope because it is birthed and grown by the grace of my sovereign, faithful, good, unlimited God and Heavenly Father. Dear friend or parent, if I may offer you some rays of hope in the dark tunnel of autism, may our Lord be honored and your soul be filled with hope.
Limited to 10 truths, I pass along the following lessons I’ve learned:
1) I have learned: You cannot handle the burdens of life. If you could, would you need a Savior. Strength to carry on is given by God alone so depend on Him.
2) I have learned: There is a profound purpose in loneliness and isolation. Darkness reveals the true condition of your soul which is being refined through fire.
3) I have learned: Rejecting the help of others reveals pride, not strength. Part of soul care means humbling oneself under God and accepting His grace.
4) I have learned: Misplaced hope is not true hope. Therapies, studies, doctors, specialists, examinations, report cards, school advocacy, diets, answers will never provide you with a final answer and renewed hope. Hope comes only from the Lord.
5) I have learned: True forgiveness is tough when judgment, rejection, and betrayal come our way. Forgiving or resenting is a choice; forgiving is a command. Asking God for help to forgive opens our soul.
6) I have learned: There is a vast difference between ‘the God of my Bible stories” and “the God of the Bible”. Abiding faith does not come from false beliefs but from the truths of God; immerse your mind on what is true.
7) I have learned: God is NOT required to answer our questions. Entitlement demands answers; God is never required to give an explanation.
8) I have learned: Resentment reflects my selfishness. Finding relief is not what God promises; becoming self-less brings relief.
9) I have learned: God’s love is unconditional. Authentic faith is cultivated when we believe God embraces us with His love.
10) I have learned: accepting Christ as my eternal Savior is the only way on the journey of life with autism. In Christ, there is eternal hope and joy. Life is tough, but God is always good and faithful.
Colleen Swindoll serves as the Director of Special Needs Ministry at Insight for Living, where she regularly blogs, maintains an active presence on Facebook under the “Special Needs Ministry” page, personally ministers to parents and families worldwide struggling to raise kids with disabilities, and has assembled an array of resources for parents of kids with special needs.
To join us for the Children’s Ministry Websummit from April 2-6, 2012, click here for downloads of my lecture handout and FREE registration! My presentation is on the topic Square Pegs and Round Holes…Helping Kids With Asperger’s Disorder and Social Disabilities Grow Spiritually.