The other day I was leaving a client meeting when she and I started some small talk about life and our kids' schools and I mentioned that my son goes to a private school for kids with autism. Right away, upon hearing that, she looked down and said "Oh, I'm sorry". This reaction shook my spirit, as it has before - this was not the first time I had heard it. I wanted to say to her and others "You must have not heard me right, I did not say he is dying of terminal illness, I only said he is autistic." But instead, I left it alone, not having the time nor desire to make an already awkward molehill into a mountain. We said our goodbyes.
On the drive home my mind kept circling back around to her condolences regarding my beautiful son. I know she or others do not mean to offend, of course not. But, it makes my heart slump hearing "I'm sorry" regarding who he is, like he's thought of as damaged goods and that we are deserving of sympathy from bystanders.
We discovered Ethan had autism when he was almost four years old after his preschool teacher noticed behaviors that concerned her. We had him tested soon after and got the diagnosis - Asperger's syndrome, or high-functioning Autism. No parent wants to hear their child has something that makes them different but my immediate thought was - "But, are we not all different? What does normal even mean on a planet of over 7 billion distinct and gorgeously unique people?" Scripture once again flips on the light, bringing clarity:
Psalm 139:13-16 (NIV)
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
My son was not made defective like a computer missing crucial parts. He is not an example of where the Quality Control Department was asleep on the job. Just the opposite - he was deliberately made special, just like we all are, by our careful and loving Creator. His brain-system forming differently than others was not a design flaw but instead a purposeful and woven-in distinction of who he is. God knew what He was doing. I am certain.
As a young boy, because Ethan could not communicate in the typical way when he was overwhelmed or upset, he would tantrum-hard. I mean house-shaking-tantrum-HARD. We learned very early on that the only way to calm him was to stay extremely calm ourselves and not cause the rattling to worsen by getting frustrated and impatient or raising our voice at him. The calmer we stayed, the better off we all were. Believe me, we did not do this perfectly. Having a screaming, kicking and throwing-things kid act like this for hours on end frazzles you, but, we learned - one day, one lesson, one holding-him-close hug at a time.
He made us better parents and better people. His "malfunctioning" was only a meticulous miracle in disguise. God often uses outside-the-lines ways of getting our attention, and Ethan certainly did that. We learned patience and unconditional love beyond what we thought humanly possible and we have our beautiful son and good God to thank.
Ethan is almost thirteen now and is sweet, brilliant and funny and is still teaching us many things, from how to add memory to our computer hard drives, to how we should laugh at ourselves when we get too serious. We can all stand to learn important things from those different from us can't we?
The Hebrew word for "fearfully" is yârê. It is translated as reverence. Webster's Dictionary defines reverence as "to regard with profound respect and honor." Wonderfully is defined as "in a way or to an extent that is extremely or unusually good or pleasing". There you have it. In each of our precious beginnings, He is there, threading us together with a big smile on His glorious face, with respect, honor, goodness and more love than we can fathom this side of Heaven.
Masterful. Special. Created for purpose; knitted one careful stitch at a time. Next time you hear or see someone who the world may deem as "different", remember, to be different is of the Divine. From snowflakes, to flowers, to us, the pinnacle of His creation, each are intentionally unique and we can glean amazing things from each one.
God would have it no other way, and neither would we - Ethan is perfectly stitched...just the way he is.
Question: What is a way you can name and appreciate how God knitted you differently? Say a prayer of thanksgiving today for His loving and thoughtfulness towards you and how He made you unique to every other person and thing on the planet. Very cool!