What Happens When God Can be Mother Too?

Category Archives:Asperger’s

Rejoicing with Bilbo and Mother God

Marshall has had some breakthroughs spiritually lately. He decided to forgive the bully after our discussion about her inability to see from his perspective. (She has Asperger’s, too). She couldn’t perceive what he was feeling. He said again today that he’d forgiven her. He wants to write a card that says, “I forgive you and love you.” He’d wanted to kill her a few days ago.

Today Marshall’s one-page devotion talked about Jesus as the bread of life and invited kids to ask Jesus into their hearts. This time Marshall asked, “How do I do that?” instead of telling me to shut up. He said, “I’m bad. I’ve done bad things.” I know Marshall’s heart is good; and the bad things are the spiritual crap loaded onto him from the bully. But every spiritual journey needs to include owning up and letting go.

I told him when I was little that my babysitter said the words and I repeated after her. I tried that with him to show him how he could pray. I said, “Jesus, come into my life. Forgive all my sins and make me clean inside.” He listened.

I said, “When God is able to fill more of you, the bully will have less influence.” He said, “That’s good.”

Yesterday, when he was acting out a drama where the evil character gets the most power, I asked, “What is your power?” He said, “I don’t know. I don’t have any.”

I said, “What about your voice? You can speak the truth.”

He said, “That’s good. Okay,” and zoomed into the play room where he began a loud dialogue.

“Evil is the greatest power!” growled the first voice.

“No, goodness is!” answered a confident Marshall. This is the first time he has tried to fight evil with goodness or its truth. Usually, he wants to kill everyone off.

We are making progress. I know Marshall is in Jesus’ protective gaze, and the angels fight for him, and Mother God embraces him, no matter what he says he believes or doesn’t. Yet when we win a battle, when we have more light, I feel grateful.

We have a copy of The Hobbit lying around, and every time I read another page, I immediately identify with Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves. We are in a dark wood, on a long journey to face down Smaug. Now and then, though, there is a sunshine-filled clearing to rest and drink, or the elves give us a party. And we rejoice with Mother God.

Keep Talking

What do you do with the pain of injustice, while you wait for Mother God? You talk about it. I do, anyway.

Marshall talks, and draws. This morning he drew a caricature of the bully. She stood in a pool of blood with only bones for legs. These are images from her own stories she showed Marshall. I tried to talk him out of this drawing but it is his expression of waiting for justice.

When Jesus was on the cross, waiting to die, he talked, too—amazingly. He asked God why he’d forsaken him. He told a man next to him he’d be with Jesus soon in Paradise. Justice. He complained, “I thirst.” He asked God to forgive the ones who’d crucified and tormented him. He gave his mother a new son, John, to care for her. And finally He let people know his work was done.

He was not just a victim, because redemption for every one, through His death, was coming. “It is finished,” He said finally, and He gave his spirit to God.

Maybe there is some spiritual parallel here. What we’re all waiting for is the pain of injustice to die. Because some things can’t be restored. Can our beloved son un-know that people kill each other or die in gruesome ways or that a friend he trusted hurt him repeatedly?

We are managing pain, hanging here on our own cross. I say “we” like Mary may have said it.  She was at the bottom of the cross after all, waiting with Jesus to die. She never left.

I wonder if she said the wrong things sometimes, like I do. Because of us not understanding Marshall, he feels abandoned—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” said Jesus. We forsake by trying to pull him into our world, with forceps. All the old parental controlling techniques just damage.

Last night, I just invited him to come sit next to me and I held him close. This heals, this brings relief and a glimpse of resurrection. Marshall thirsts, for touch, tender looks, the love that gets stored and locked up in the hearts of tired parents.

One of the phrases that has sometimes grated on me is Micah’s many requests for smoothies throughout any given day. “I’m firsty,” he’ll say.

His little speech impediment makes him sound so little, and reminds me of how little he really is at age 9. The request can come 4 or 5 times a day, because he shuns water.

To give Christ drink, when he is thirsty on the cross, is an honor many of us would embrace. And so will I.

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“Dirty Fingernails,” by Susan Harrison, inspired by Nadia Bolz-Weber in Pastrix

 

Jesus’ fingernails were dirty

When Mary met him near the tomb

Resurrection is like that meeting,

Not so much like Easter morning.

 

My fingernails are dirty, too

From my garden and my work.

Could you see I am the body

On this coming Sunday morning?

 

And if I brought my son, or sent him–

The one with marker on his face,

And with dirty hair and hands?

Could you find a resurrection there?

The Divine Task of Parenthood

Having babies is like starting your own fan club. But then sometimes when kids get older, they start to question us, like believers question Mother God as they get older in faith.

Marshall is that age where we get critiqued regularly.  He says, “I feel like an intruder lately.” He wonders if we love his new brother more than we love him. He wonders if we no longer adore him, now that he isn’t a baby and included in that mutual adoration club.

He’s right that we don’t love him in the exact same way as his brother who is fourteen months old. In some ways the love I have for Marshall has stronger, deeper roots due to more time, nine years vs. 14 months. In other ways, the love I have for him is like offering vegetables when a child wants brownies. It’s not sweet enough.

It stings. It’s hard for me to admit that I treat Sam with warmth because mostly what I get from him is positive, and I struggle to treat Marshall the same way when he calls me names and criticizes me. (He is repeating the behaviors of the bully, but it’s still hard to take).

Yet, Marshall scarcely even knows what he is saying, or its impact on us emotionally. Asperkids, at least sometimes, lack a “theory of mind.” They don’t fully realize others have a mind separate from their own. It makes these kids and adults seem egocentric.

John Elder Robinson, who wrote Look Me in the Eye, says he will sometimes walk into a party, go straight to the television, and turn it off, because it bothers him. He forgets to think about the fact that someone may be watching it. But he means well.

For Marshall, when he calls us “creep” and “jerk,” he is stating a fact. That this fact-naming might make him less immediately lovable never occurs to him. Our voice tone changing into irritation is inexplicable. One of us leaving the room suddenly to try to cope feels like rejection. We are learning to do the superhuman feat of staying cheerful in all situations or Marshall’s feeling of rejection is only intensified.

Marshall wants to stay connected in the same way Sam naturally is by being dependent, vulnerable and cute (like Marshall was at fourteen months old). He wants baby-cradling, but at 4 foot 6 inches, it just isn’t happening much, despite our good intentions.

And now all the anger and hurt within him is expanding into a universe, creating someone we don’t know.

Suddenly we parents are not adored anymore.

But the real divine task of parenthood is to always reach out; to be Jesus of the one lost sheep; to never give up; to, like El Shaddai, be ready with new mercies every day, and with an open heart that can heal, and be hurt again.

Jesus spoke the truth to people about sin (including sin toward children), but in the end, his final word was forgiveness—because “they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Jesus took their perspective, and he could forgive.

The truth is all of us have difficulty seeing from others’ point of view. Parents may have this problem even more than people with Asperger’s. But that is key in being a good mom or dad, especially to a child who is often misunderstood, and another child who can’t yet speak for himself.

We’re all children inside, seen inaccurately, and without the right words, sometimes. We criticize Mother God when we’re really asking for love and protection and for Her to understand us.

And we’re always in need of the kind of forgiveness that sees our hearts and stays open, the kind She gives every day–even when we don’t adore Her like we once did.




The Perspectives of Love

Marshall flopped on the floor of the psychologist’s office, playing with one of those sensory pin toys that make the shape of your hand. He was explaining to her why he hates people: “They have destroyed so many animal habitats.” She nodded—she loves animals, too—and asked, “Is there any one you don’t hate?”

Marshall then climbed up into my lap, all 83 pounds, 4 and a half feet and I gave him a long hug. I was the Good Mama.

But at the end of the session, he accidentally hit his head on the side of the door. Then he came back into the room and hit me, with threats quoted directly from the older girl who bullied him.

I try to stay half in denial about Marshall’s new self, affected by trauma. The other half of me, at least, has to enter his world and see what he sees. And occasionally kick a demon out.

This is the Mama-Jesus-Task—walking scary roads together, never abandoning, always beckoning.

The Reign of God Starts with our Parenting

Jesus said John the Baptist was “the Elijah who was to come” (Matt. 11:14). The second Elijah, John, was to “turn the hearts of the parents to their children” (Mal. 4:5,6; Luke 1:17).

Repentance and the reign of God is at least partly about children, in their worst moments, the times we most want to turn away or to threaten to withdraw our love. To really repent is to love our children with open hearts even when we’re in pain, and to stop the control-through-fear, the manipulation, the verbal or physical abuse. It’s to choose to see from our children’s perspective.

I’ve never heard a sermon on this verse, yet if John was the greatest human in history (Matt. 11:11), in Jesus’ estimation, then we need to listen. I need to listen.

There are so many components to love, like a big Lego heart. The funny thing is, I’m not aware of having learned love from God, like the part of love that sees from the other person’s perspective.

Yet I believe Mother God sees life through my eyes; I think Mother God understands me. This is where I feel safe. If I thought Mother God would only argue with me about anything I said, I would never speak.

Arguing is the easy place to parent from. I have nearly reduced my interactions with Marshall to asking him to get off the computer so he can interact with us. He almost always say, “No.” The computer is now his friend, his safe place. I see it as an enemy.

The only thing that will put the pieces of our lives together is love, which will mean going deeper and deeper into his world and helping him sort it out together. That means I quit trying to control him and see what is important to him and why.

The Perspective of Grace

Yesterday, Joel had a moment of grace for Marshall, one I usually don’t. Marshall has taken to walking away from the house lately when he feels rejected. He and Joel were both in bare feet. Joel followed him down the street and said, “Can I come with you?”

Marshall looked back gratefully and said, “Yes,” and then began to tell Joel what a bad parent he was.

But by the time I saw them, outside, they were walking together toward home, smiling, side by side.

This is the metaphor for our parenting of our wounded Asper-boy. Don’t try to get him to change; go with him into his own choices and back out again. It is the safety of unconditional love that changes us.

This is also a metaphor for Mother God’s parenting. She doesn’t shout stern commands to come home; she follows us where we choose.

She never leaves no matter where we choose to go—the office, the pub, the bus stop or the Internet. And she loves us unrelentingly, loves us all the way home.