I was sitting in bed, browsing the internet, minding my own business, when my 14 and 11 year old daughters entered the room. My oldest had a look of “help!” on her face. They walked over and sat on the bed and my oldest said to her sister, “Bekah, ask Mommy what you were just asking me.” Bekah looked a little timid, which is unusual for her, then asked,
“Mommy, why did God made me autism?”
(This is an exact quote. One of her many issues is that she has problems with verb tenses and sentence structure.) I’m glad I was in bed and not standing up because I think I might have fallen over. We had the “autism talk” with her a few months ago, and while it’s come up here and there in passing, she has not approached near this depth of thought about it, at least verbally. I have had years to work out my own beliefs about God causing things and have even written a bit about it here, but putting all my thoughts and beliefs in words that would make sense to her left me momentarily speechless. Yet there she was, looking at me, waiting for an answer – one of those
lovely terrifying parental moments. I took a big breath then dived in.
Here’s how it went – paraphrased of course – – –
Me: Honey, God didn’t give you autism. Sometimes things just happen. B: How come? Me: Well, every one of us is different right? Some of us have brown hair, some people have blue eyes, some people are tall and some are short. Sometimes people have special challenges too. Sometimes a person might need a wheelchair because their legs don’t work right, or remember that girl in your dance class that only had one hand? I know that having autism can be hard sometimes, but God didn’t give it to you, God helps you so you can be strong and work hard and be the wonderful girl you are!
B: Did I get it in your belly? Me: I don’t know. Some very smart doctors think maybe autism starts in the mommy’s belly, other smart doctors think it happens after you’re born. B: Oh. Did my friends get autism in their mommy’s bellies? Me: We don’t know about them either. You know there are THOUSANDS of kids and grown-ups with autism all over the world and the doctors don’t know for sure if it starts in the mommy’s bellies or happens after they’re born. It’s the same with all those people as it is with you.
B: Do the kids at (the other program site where they have classes for more challenged “lower functioning” kids) have autism too? Me: Yep. There are all different ways people have autism. You know there’s lots of kids at (the other site) who don’t talk right? B: Yes. Me: Well, some people with autism have a really hard time talking, and some kids like you talk really well! But you took a long time to talk and had to work really hard, and we’re so proud of you! B: Yeah!
She seemed satisfied at that point and bounced away happily to play while my oldest stared at me with a look of “I can’t believe what just happened.” She got up slowly and left the room too – then I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief that it was over.
I asked my daughter later what made her think of that original question, “Why did God made me autism?” And she casually replied, “I don’t know.” She has been asking more questions about God lately, but putting the two together as a “cause and effect” was a big leap. There’s definitely a lot going on in that beautiful brain of hers.
You may completely disagree with the answer I gave my daughter about her autism. It may give you comfort to think that God is in control of the details of our everyday lives. But that thought has never comforted me. For me that would make God a dispenser of pain and suffering. I believe that God is THE loving presence who gives us strength to persevere, carries us through our pains, comforts us in the midst of our suffering and gives us hope that we are more than the things that challenge us.