In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, we are re-posting Pastor Lawrence's reflection on his family and their journey with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We pray Waypoint will be a church that welcomes and celebrates the unique ways God has formed all people.
When Jina was pregnant with Josiah, I can’t tell you the number of people who told us, “Your child is going to be so smart!” or even, “Your child is going to be a genius!” We’d laugh their comments off, but somewhere in my heart, I held on to that hope.
Early on in Josiah’s life, we noticed that he was speech delayed and that he didn’t play with other kids. We worked with him, but he didn’t seem to make progress. When he was 3 years old, we took him to get tested and found out he was on the autism spectrum. I was sad, but I wanted to be strong for Jina. I took on a “no big deal” attitude on the outside, but on the inside I was wrestling with the hopes and dreams I had for my son. We started speech and occupational therapy. We are thankful that we have access to these therapies and, yet, some days it seems like so much time and money for very slow progress.
Josiah is now 4 years old, and the differences between him and his peers are getting bigger. I fear others will make fun of him. Being a highly social person, it breaks my heart when I see him playing by himself, while other children are playing together. It’s also challenging when his behavior seems disrespectful. Jina and I believe in discipline and respect for elders, but autism makes it more difficult to set these parameters.
I’m incredibly grateful for the way all of you love Josiah and look out for him. Having a child on the autism spectrum has shown me how difficult it must be for parents with special needs to bring their children to church. It’s hard to be misunderstood, and it’s embarrassing when you don’t have the time or words to explain why your child might be responding to the various stimuli at church.
I have learned so much from being Josiah’s father. We tend to compliment children on how smart, how advanced, and how well-behaved they are. I wonder if that says more about the idols in our hearts than it does about the children themselves. I love Josiah because he is Josiah; he is caring, sweet, loving, trusting, and a good big brother to Hudson.
As much as I love him, I have struggled with how to pray for him. Do I pray for healing from autism? Or do I embrace his autism as a central part of how God made him? Jina has a simple prayer request. She prays that she will one day be able to have a conversation with Josiah. She wants to know what he is thinking and feeling, she wants to talk about his day.
My prayer for our church is that we will be a welcoming community for all people. I also pray that we will evaluate the idols of our hearts so that we can reorder our prayers, goals, and expectations for our children. I pray we won’t have the priorities of the world, but of the kingdom of Heaven.
If you are interested in being a part of the Buddy ministry that provides assistance for children who could benefit from mentors during Children’s Worship, please contact Marlee Thomsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dianne Susman (WaypointKids@waypointrdu.com).