Saturday, December 23, 2006

Of Gifts, Parenting, and How to Let Go

Susan Senator is the parent of an autistic son, Nat, now seventeen. During this season, Senator is thankful for those who work with Nat. Their compassion and dedication are gifts. And, her experience tells her that in spite of her fears over a future over which she has no control, there will always be someone who cares about what happens to Nat.

Near the end of her piece, Senator writes:
The other day, because it's close to Christmas, Nat's driver handed us a big bag of presents: a huge box of oreos and a polar fleece top to keep him warm. "He always asks for cookies because I give them to him sometimes," she shrugged. "So I want to make sure he gets his cookies."

The old twinge in my throat flared up. I almost cried as I took that bag from her. This gift was much more than a bag of cookies. What she gave me was a little peace of mind. I still don't know what the future holds for Nat as an adult. But I'm pretty sure that there will always be people out there who will care for and love him, even when it's not part of their job description. Even when it's not easy. And even when I'm no longer around.
I was moved to respond to what Senator wrote:
Thank you for this wonderful post!

Acknowledging that we're not really in control of our lives is among the hardest and most essential steps any of us can take.

It's certainly an issue for parents of children who aren't, for want of a better term, differently abled. Parenting is a slow, arduous letting-go. But I'm sure that the letting-go is more difficult for you as Nat's mom.

One of the joys of my life is my service on our county's Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. I don't know how I would have handled being the parent of a differently abled child and I know that I wouldn't be a good professional worker with such children. But I feel that the least I can do is provide support to such children (and adults), their families, and the very special people who work with these folks.

As a Christian, of course, I believe that the greatest gift we receive is God Himself, Who came to us as a helpless child needful of parents and a community to raise Him to adulthood. It's Christ Who gives me the capacity to deal with the uncertainties in my life, although I admit that I don't have them so maddeningly thrown into my face as you do each day.

But whether one believes what Christians say about Christ or not, I think that most people would agree with the Christian belief that the highest calling in the world--more important than the jobs of kings, presidents, athletes, or pop stars--is the call to be a parent. Susan, I can see that you take that calling with the utmost seriousness. Nat is blessed. And your post is a blessing.

I hope that Nat enjoys his Oreos.
The only way I know how to let go is to let God into all of the daunting and seemingly insoluble situations of our lives. I go back to the three-word Latin motto my seminary professor, Trygve Skarsten, used to write on our "blue books": Ora et labora. Pray and work.

And in that order: Ask for God's help. Then do your best.

Live with the unknowns and trust the God Who has made Himself emphatically, clearly, lovingly, unmistakably known in the Savior Whose birth we celebrate on Christmas!

I don't have the same faith in humanity that Senator has. I know how self-absorbed and sinful I can be. My observation tells me that's true of the rest of the human race. But I have faith--sometimes the size of a mustard seed--in the big, infinite, loving God Who makes Himself known for all to see at Christmas. This is the God Who inspires people to pray and work and serve in His Name and so, make the world a little better. God is the One Who gives me hope.

Read Susan Senator's post.

[Also read here.]

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