Has your love ever been tested?
I remember, years ago, a mentor of mine saying that no two people should ever get married without first having an intense fight. Luckily, my then fiance (now wife) and I had that covered. About an hour after I asked her to marry me, we were standing in the street having a shouting match on a cold winter night. Classy, right? I know but we worked through it, and here we are still married after almost 25 years.
One of the mistakes we make when considering love (for a spouse, our children, or anyone else we claim to love) is that we assume that fond feelings must be attached. We might be endeared to a person and tell them that we love them. Love and endearment really aren’t the same thing.
I remember a guy walking up to me, after a particularly lively and emotional time of church worship, saying, “I love you man. I’m committed to you.” I hardly ever heard from him after that.
A very good friend of mine, who was married for decades, told me he was leaving his wife because he wasn’t enjoying himself anymore and there was a younger woman who made him feel special.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned about love. If you’re not willing to put the work into it, if you’re not willing to stick with someone when things get tough, if you’re not willing to commit when you’re not getting anything out of it, then it’s not love.
Maybe it’s like, maybe it’s fond feelings, maybe it’s fun. But it’s not love.
The thing with love (real love) is that it’s willing to work through the ugly, willing to go long periods of time performing acts of love without feelings, and even willing to pray, believe, and be kind when the other person is pushing you away.
I have an autistic son that is currently going through a phase where he flies into a rage for seemingly very small things. When he has one of these episodes, he says hurtful things, yells, and shakes his fist. My gut response is to say something cutting and walk away. I’m tired.
Every time, I have to make the a deliberate decision to love.
I have to intentionally speak with love, not fight fire with fire (which I sometimes fail at), and renew my commitment to walk with him through this season of his life. It’s hard but love is hard. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.
Before I wrap this up, I want to ask you, who do you need to love stronger?
Have you checked out of one of your most important relationships? Do you find yourself judging people that really need love? Are you distancing yourself from someone who’s difficult to love?
Love stronger. Push through. Keep loving.
I recently wrote a short e-book called The Love Stronger Manifesto and I want to give you a copy. Just click here to download it. My prayer is that you’ll read it and accept the challenge to love yourself and others in a way that can change the world.
Love can heal broken people, can transform your life, and can make a difference in our families and communities.
We just need to love stronger.
Recently, it was my son’s 18th birthday. It really doesn’t seem real that I now have two adult children. Both of my adult children are on the autism spectrum, which poses certain challenges when it comes to leading them to a life of independence. Let’s just say, it’ll be a while before I get to turn one of their bedrooms into a man-cave. To be honest with you, they’re both great guys and I really don’t mind having them around a few extra years.
My middle son (the one in the picture) is the one who just turned 18. I vividly remember gazing at him, when he was born, and imagining all of the wonderful things he would do when he grew up. I still believe he is going to do wonderful things, it’s just that the road to Wonderfulthingsville is going to be more like a winding, speedbump-laden path than a straight-shot expressway.
Now that the boys are both considered adults, I figured I’d share a few things about what it’s like to raise autistic children. With an estimated 1 in 10 children on the spectrum, chances are you have a child, or know a child, with autism. If you have a child with autism, I hope these help.
You wish you could do more to help them make friends.
This has been one of the toughest things for me. My heart breaks on a regular basis when I see my son ignored or rejected by other kids. Autism isn’t a visible, easily recognizable disability so other teenagers just tend to see him as weird or quirky. When they exclude him, he notices and it hurts. At youth group, he usually sat alone and came home feeling sad.
It’s hard for him to make friends online as well. Having a very black and white outlook on life, he’ll usually “call out” people for swearing or inappropriate behavior. As you can imagine, this opens the door for all sorts of negative reactions from people who don’t understand the real person behind the avatar.
Since it’s so difficult for my son to make friends, I try my best to be a good friend to him. I check in on him often, invite him to walk with me, and play games with him. He really is a treasure and I pray often for him to make good friends.
You have to learn a new language.
Imagine living with someone who only speaks Italian. You work hard at learning to speak Italian yourself, but then you realize that the person SPEAKS Italian, but UNDERSTANDS French. Then you have to learn French, but don’t get too comfortable because you might need to brush up on your German once in a while.
The point is, communication isn’t always easy between myself and my son. I’ve learned to ask a lot of clarifying questions before responding to what he says to me. I’ve also learned that I can’t always count on his tone of voice or body language to make things clearer. Unless he’s angry. Then it’s pretty clear.
I have to be patient, listen actively, and talk in ways that do not communicate too many ideas at a time.
Your hopes and aspirations for them have to remain fluid.
We all have hopes and aspirations for our children. We dream of them becoming successful writers, pastors, entrepreneurs, doctors, and missionaries. Sometimes our children don’t want to do the things we dream for them, and sometimes they just don’t have the capacity.
When I heard about Temple Grandin and John Elder Robison, I thought, he could do something amazing! He might. Or he might not. Either way, I’m ok with it. He IS someone amazing and I love him no matter what.
Earlier today, I took him down to the local community college to get enrolled. He wants to be a medical transcriptionist. He has mad typing skills and I’m super proud of him.
You have to take initiative for them.
My son likes to be alone in his room…a lot. He likes things with screens. He likes the computer, the phone, and the television. When company comes over, he goes to his room. It’s not that he doesn’t like company, or exercise, or creativity. He just needs someone to take him by the hand and draw him out.
For many autistic kids, hypersensitivity to the world around them is a problem and there’s comfort in being alone and focusing on a screen to tune everything else out. If he hasn’t gotten exercise in a while, I’ll invite him on a walk. If there’s a fun activity he might like, I have to encourage him to get involved. Sometimes he protests to playing a game or hanging out with the family, but he’s almost always glad that he did.
You have to remember that they are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I used to pray a lot that God would heal my son. I know now that he is just as God wanted him. As Temple Grandin says, “Different, not less.” A disability is a bend in the road, not the end of the road. My son has taught me so much about childlike faith, friendship, and love. Being his father has made me a better person; more caring, patient, and kind.
I wouldn’t trade the 18 years I’ve spent with him for anything. I see Jesus in him. I love the way he worships (he plays bass on the church worship team), I love the way he jokes with me (he has incredibly well-timed farts), and I love his smile. He really is fearfully and wonderfully made.
If you have a child with autism, I hope you don’t grow weary. Keep dreaming for him or her, and be an amazing friend.