It was a beautiful day as I cheerily loaded my kids in the car to take my youngest son, Jake, to Occupational Therapy. He eagerly climbed his 7-year-old body into his car seat. Jake LOVED to “go see Amy,” his therapist, because there is an indoor gym area, lots of fun swings and large motor equipment. We were leaving a bit early to drop Derek, my 10-yr. old son, off at a friend’s house. With everyone smiling, we were off.
The Meltdown Begins
To drop my older son off at his friend’s house I had to turn left instead of right, the way to therapy. Jake immediately started screaming in a panic, “BACK THIS WAY!!!! BACK THIS WAY!!!!” I tried explaining, “We will! We will! I promise. We just have to drop Derek off first. Real quick! We’re going to go see Amy!”
My words couldn’t penetrate his panic and disappointment. He was screaming, sobbing, kicking the back of my seat, and biting his own arm repeatedly. By the time we reached the gym, I tried to get him to look out the window to see where we were, but it was just too late. I was glad he was restrained in his car seat because it prevented him from attacking me so I could drive back home.
Once home he was still sobbing with his hands covering his face. I called the therapy office to tell them we wouldn’t be making it. They informed me that due to the time Amy had blocked off for Jake, we would still have to pay. I didn’t argue, that was the least of my concerns at the time. I hung up the phone, and then it was my turn to meltdown.
Tears started rolling down my face, and I began to wallow in my feelings of helplessness and frustration. I started ranting out loud in anger to God. “God, PLEASE! THIS is why I want him to be able to understand me! He LOVES to go to the gym, but he couldn’t go today – because of his autism, he couldn’t understand me, let alone trust me. His own mother can’t get through to him, and he’s 7 years old! Why won’t You help?!?”
Then I heard a clear, firm voice say, “How are you any different from your child?” Those words froze me in my tracks. They broke through my self-pity as I realized how true those words were. I stood reflecting and listening for more, but only heard the sound of my child quietly sobbing. As I thought about how I WAS just like my child–having a tantrum because I thought things took a wrong turn that day–I thought about how urgently I wished Jake could learn and grow past this point and realized my heavenly Father probably desires the same of me.
Learn to Shift Focus During Your Meltdown
I am so grateful God pointed that out to me. Now I am conscious of some things I can work on whenever my life seems to take a “wrong turn”:
- Trust in God’s love. God’s love is no less real than my love for my child, and I certainly know I love my child. Just as I have no control over my child’s reaction, God has lovingly given me free will to decide on how I will respond to my experiences here on earth. I’m working on increasing my awareness and appreciation of that gift. It is an amazing opportunity to work on controlling myself from within instead of feeling like a victim to my circumstances. Just as I love my son even while he tantrums, I can trust God loves me unconditionally. That certainly doesn’t mean God wouldn’t be pleased as punch to see me develop new and better ways to handle myself, however!
- Focus on Faith. Focusing on fears can paralyze human beings. Just as my son focused on his fear that we would were not going where he was expecting/hoping to go, I too was getting lost in my fears about my son. I know from the Bible that God says we will have challenges, but also promises to “seek and ye shall find” answers (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:10). I can choose to focus on my faith in God’s promise so that I might remain calm and open to guidance, help, and new possibilities.
- Realize that God has a bigger picture in mind. Just as my son couldn’t conceive my reasoning for taking that “wrong turn” (for the benefit of his brother), I think God has much bigger reasons for allowing things to happen that I can not possibly conceive from my limited, one person point of view. I need not understand all the details, I only need to believe that good will happen eventually no matter how things look in the moment.
During this miraculous Easter season, I see this experience as just another illustration of how God can use our darkest moments to reveal wonderous blessings if we open our hearts and minds to receiving them. Thank-You God.