I’ve been guilty most of my life. Seeking acceptance. Seeking approval. Seeking to please others. But what it got me was a path further from God. It left me fully dependent and clinging on their every word. Afraid to stand up. Afraid to make ripples or draw attention. Afraid to lose friendships.
If there’s anything to test that challenge and grow you, it would be an autistic son.
They can break what society has deemed appropriate for behavior and acceptability. Their actions don’t always make sense. They can be loud, eccentric and colorful. They may not conform to society’s demands for normalcy, as they struggle in many more areas than just socially.
I have written several blogs on this very thing, about being judged and criticized. I encouraged others to be more sensitive and less judgmental, but I’m learning too. Some advice is necessary and helpful, but it needs to be balanced by God’s Word (and lots of prayer).
Two of my sons and I were standing at check out. My youngest was sitting in the child’s seat and my autistic son was sitting in the back of the cart. He was calmly sucking his two favorite fingers—an act that gives him great comfort in overstimulating and anxiety-producing situations. I placed the items on the counter for the twenty-something cashier to scan. She didn’t miss a beat. “Here,” she said to my autistic son, “you need to take your fingers out of your mouth and put this on.” She forcefully held out a bottle of hand sanitizer. I was so shocked that I didn’t say anything. I just looked down at my son, who did not react at all.
I have never used his autism label to someone I didn’t know—I rarely even do to people who know us. I allow others to see him as he is, not with a label placed across his forehead. I don’t want to use it to excuse behavior that is wrong across the board, whether autistic or neuro-typical. But in this instance, maybe I should’ve. She had no idea how difficult simple trips to the store are for us—how difficult every day is. She had no idea why he sucks his fingers at five years old. He was not running around the store or throwing things. Nothing that was unacceptable. He was calmly sitting in the cart. But he does not look autistic; he looked like a typical child who was questionably too old to be sucking his fingers.
Judgment placed. Unwarranted advice given. A struggling mom walking out of a store, holding back more tears of failure and inadequacy.
Let’s be honest, parenting provides ample opportunity for others to give unwarranted advice. And for a long time—while seeking answers to our son’s struggles—I questioned everything we did based on others’ opinions. We disciplined too little. We didn’t discipline the right way. No one knew more than us how many things we tried and failed. I was already struggling and saw the deepness of his struggles that others didn’t see, so when opposition challenged it shook me to the very core.
But God is working in my heart. He’s been challenging me. To not to place too much value in the opinions of others. When it comes to autism, the only black-and-white is in the mind of the autistic child, not in the method in which you lead him. But for others, there is no gray parenting.
On whose opinion should we depend or trust? Do we steer our lives based on the opinions of others or based on what is right in the eyes of God?
It really is a war within.
Other people are just as faulty and vaguely wise as us, yet we place their views above God’s? (Now, this certainly does not mean God cannot, and does not, use others to give Godly advice and guidance. But we each must first seek God’s guidance.)
Once I started to let go of others’ criticism and judgments I began to feel confident. Confident in God’s direction. I began to see God’s leading. I began to feel hope. And peace. I began to feel free.
I’m doing what God has called me, not what others expect, accept or deem as right.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.