"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." -Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
I just caught a glimpse of the holiday card that still hangs on my refrigerator long past the season. I leave it there because I like to look at the pictures on it- pictures of my grandson, daughter, and son-in-law. Tonight, as it caught my eye, the words courageous and strong went through my mind. Yes, they are the most courageous and strong family I know!
I've met some others these past few years but I'm not as familiar with their stories. As I look at my grandson's sweet smile, I can't help but think of how brave he is as he maneuvers through life on the "spectrum." That's what the professionals call it, but to families who have children with autism, each case is a bit different. Others call it a "puzzle" because there are no clearcut answers or solutions. Each family walks its own unique path while at the same time seeking some common ground with others.
They are courageous because they face uncertainties, ups and downs, and successes and failures. You might say, "Well we all do," and you're right, but this is different. No one really understands unless their lives have been touched by autism. My grandson's family doesn't give up! They don't quit on him! If one treatment doesn't give the results they were hoping for, they try another- and another! That's what you do when there's no set treatment that helps everyone.
They are brave because they dare to give their child the most normal childhood possible. They play together, laugh together, and sing. They go to Disney and to the mountains. They play basketball, swim, and ride bikes. And they go to the beach and to church. They don't allow their challenges to keep them from having fun and enjoying each other.
Yes, they have expenses- special supplements, diets, and therapies that insurance doesn't always cover. There are private schools and camps. What do they do? They could complain and cry about it but they just work harder. As they take on extra work, they are acutely aware that they need to protect their availability as parents, so they choose work that offers them flexibility. Sometimes they ask family for help, and that's okay. I'm sure they'd rather not but do it for their child's best interests. They are his advocate.
So maybe you're getting an idea of why I say they are strong and courageous. They need our support and they need our prayers. God has promised them, as He has promised all of us, that He is with us wherever we go. Wherever our path goes, He is there waiting for us to trust in Him and to draw upon His strength.