When I think of the word “fresh”, I think of renewal. Sometimes refreshment and renewal come expectedly, as when one schedules a vacation, and sometimes they arrive unexpectedly, when the Lord brings a change for which we may have prayed, but never saw coming. We just celebrated Easter, which is perhaps the grandest gesture of renewal if there ever was one. For those who believe in the resurrection power of Jesus, we know that our lives are not only made new here on earth, they are made new in heaven as well. Mind blown. Though I celebrate Easter with the best of them—whatever that means—I probably tend to celebrate God’s ‘smaller’ acts of renewal more often because they are somehow easier around which to wrap my mind. Please don’t misunderstand: I love Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. But God’s giving his only son to die for me, and Jesus’ bloody, awful death upon the cross (at my hands, no less, really), followed by the veil being torn in the inner sanctuary and Jesus’ incredible resurrection 3 days later… well, it leaves me breathless. While it’s the chief reason, I know I can call myself a Christian, it’s very heady stuff–a lot to sink my teeth into for one post. So I’ve chosen an example of the newness of God in my life for which I am ever so thankful; and one in which God worked in such a personal way, it slays me.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]Nevertheless, God has provided strength and renewal in so many ways, little and big, since that day I cried out to him. I have learned to believe He is good in all things. [/pullquote]My son has diagnoses which place him on the autism spectrum. He has shared this fairly freely, so I don’t feel like I’m revealing anything too terribly private. His story is his, and I don’t wish to tell it, but as his mom, my story has obviously intertwined with his, and as parents do, I’ve ridden waves of highest highs and lowest lows by his side. And in his life, there have been more lows, for now. But God.
Raise your hand if you thought middle school and early high school was the.time.of.your.life. These years were likely (I hope) the nadir of my son’s existence, chiefly because he had no friends. When you have an intelligence beyond most people’s comprehension, a social awkwardness and anxiety beyond that of a typical middle/high schooler – which is saying a lot – and the accurate self-perception of that, as well as the realization that your peers are just not interested in the same stuff you’re interested in, well that’s absolutely the perfect storm for loneliness. Not only was the idea of making friends difficult, my son’s understanding of what he would need to do to maintain a friendship, should one actually take, exhausted him. As broken-hearted parents are often wont to do, my husband and I tried our best to bandage the pain we knew we could never really take away. We searched for any activities which would interest the boy and possibly create fertile ground for a friendship. Finally, we happened upon the idea of taking him to a role play gaming meet up group. Turns out he was the youngest gamer, by decades. Even though these players weren’t necessarily his friends, they were usually friendly, and the routine of meeting weekly gave our son something to look forward to during his lonely weeks. I learned never to use those groups as currency when disciplining our son. The thought of missing them crushed him so that I knew I wouldn’t have the heart to follow through on keeping him away from them. Over the years, some folks from these meet ups actually did cross over to being friends, or at least kind acquaintances who would come celebrate a birthday or send a card for graduation. But mostly… mostly, my amazing husband was Chief Friend One, and I, Chief Friend Two. (Man, it’s surprisingly gutting to write this, even though I’m writing about renewal. Go figure.)
I remember following my son into the dentist’s office on a particularly hard day, when he was about 14 years old. I was nearly in tears, and was praying fervently, “Please God! I just need to see that in 10 years he’ll be okay! I just need to know he’ll be happy!!!”
But faith is a confidence in that which CANNOT be seen, so there’s that.
Nevertheless, God has provided strength and renewal in so many ways, little and big, since that day I cried out to him. I have learned to believe He is good in all things. He has taught me how to be present in the moment, and how to hold fast to hope, with less future tripping and less anxiety. And, I’ve watched Him grow my son, too.
In a few months, our beloved, stinky, amazing, trollish, fun, grumpy, witty, hilarious, slob of a son will be 20 years old. To my delight, he is still living at home with us as he works on his undergraduate degree in history. He is one of my most favorite people in the world with whom to hang out, and his mind never ceases to amaze me. He continues to have his struggles, as most young people his age do, with the angst of “What am I going to do with my life?” and “Will I ever make any money in my major?” And I know that transferring to a university makes him nervous because, doggone it, he still questions his worth at every turn.
But you know what? Every Saturday night, our block is filled with cars, and our dining room is full of role play gamers – friends – between the ages of 19 and 40-something. Because he is so tickled to have his friends over, we not only skulk out of the way on Saturday night dates, or hide in our room watching movies, but we buy bags of chips and tubes of cookie dough, so that our son can make cookies and host properly. And we relish doing so. You know what else we relish? That our son has compassion for his friends. “Mom, so and so really has some social anxiety issues, and sometimes when we play, he’s kind of hyper-focused on ____. But that’s okay. I try to be nice to him because I may be his only friend.” To which I melt reply, “Isn’t that great that he’s here, so you can be his friend?!” “Yeah. I suppose so. He’s really a nice guy. I don’t mind.”
This is renewal.
This is refreshment.
It has been hard won, but through this and other times where I think my heart might just break into a million pieces, God gives a fresh start, and it is well with my soul. Praise Jesus, and to God alone be the glory.
And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” ~ Revelation 21:5 NLT
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. ~ Psalm 30:5b NLT