Last week, my son James, headed down to Arizona to spend two weeks with my parents. It is a particularly special time for him every year. He looks forward to being spoiled (as all grandchildren should be right?) and relaxing in a world where he feels absolutely no pressure and completely accepted just as he is. For those of you who are new to my blog, my son James is almost 16 years old and is on the higher end of the autism spectrum, has bipolar disorder and significant intellectual disabilities. Daily, he lives in a world where he feels he doesn’t fit in — that is until he arrives in Phoenix every summer — where he basks in acceptance and feels complete. Phoenix, because of the love he receives from my parents and the community they live in, has become a safe haven for James; a place where the pressures of the world are silenced and his disabilities minimized; a place where after a year of working hard in school academically and socially, his spirit finally soars.
This summer however, when he arrived in Phoenix, to all of our surprise, things didn’t go as we thought they would. Within just a few days he went from a boy filled with hope to one whose spirit was utterly broken. James withdrew, became agitated and the joy that overflowed just days before, was replaced with utter despair. One night, James called me sobbing and asked if I would drive 13 hours straight to pick him up. He pleaded that he just needed to be home. My heart felt as though it broke and fell out of my chest. I wondered if Phoenix wasn’t that special safe haven for James…where was?
In that moment I wanted to hop in the car right away, but my husband felt we needed to give it a little bit of time. Talk about feeling helpless. Still, I knew Phillip was right. One of the greatest challenges in James’ life is advocating for himself and communicating his needs. By giving him time (and of course encouraging him to have conversations with my parents) he was challenged to unravel the very confused feelings he was experiencing and express his needs to my very concerned and loving parents. And, to all of our pride, he did just that. Over the next two days, he and my parents were able to unpack his hurt, confusion and needs. Together, they were able to climb a difficult, emotional mountain and in doing so, they strengthen their relationship even more.
If Phillip and I had raced down there and “rescued” James from the pain he was experiencing, he would have missed out on the opportunity to grow in communicating his needs, hearing his grandparents hearts, understanding their point of view, coming to understanding and forgiveness and finally, spending quality time enjoying each other. Because we waited, today, the three of them are at a water park having a blast. Tomorrow they will be shopping for a cowboy hat for him to wear at a ranch he will volunteer at when he returns home. By the time he’s home on Thursday, he will have countless wonderful memories with his grandparents that he never would have had if I had stepped in prematurely and brought him home too soon. Waiting bore good fruit even though it was the difficult choice initially for everyone involved.
As I have reflected on this whole situation, I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned there is great wisdom in letting my older kids work through difficult situations before I get too involved. I’ve learned that even though James has significant limitations, I still need to let him wrestle with deep issues and persevere through difficult feelings so he can experience the joy of resolution and the happiness of overcoming. Most of all, I can’t help but contrast how the Lord sometimes ask us to wait in the midst difficult circumstances as well. Yet, as we wait on Him, there are opportunities to grow in Godly character, to hear other’s hearts, understand new things and most of all, gain God’s perspective.
Yes, waiting is not always easy. It can be uncomfortable and is often filled with restlessness and angst especially when we are asked to wait for rescue when we perceive our only safe haven is at risk. That was definitely the problem in the situation with James. I looked at Phoenix — and my parents — as James’ only safe haven — the only place where he was completely free — when that can only be found for James, for you, and for me, in the Lord.
As my kids get older, the balance of knowing when to run to their side and when to wait gets a little harder to find. I do think, the scales have tipped more towards waiting though. Because of this, Psalm 27:14 resonates more and more with my soul.
Wait for and confidently expect the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.
So, as I entrust them more and more into God’s hands, and release them from the tight grip of my own, I know there is no stronger safe haven for them to be than in the arms of a loving God who see, who knows, who compassionately works all things for their good.
Learning to wait…even when it comes to my kids.