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Glasses (1)
July 19, 2022

Glasses

My boy has been going through an anxious phase lately.
6 min read

My boy has been going through an anxious phase lately. At almost 10 years old, he has started keeping track of me and my husband’s movements around the house in a way we haven’t seen since he was a toddler. If one of us goes to the garage to dispose of something in the trash can there, he jumps up from whatever he’s doing and exclaims “Bye, bye mama/dada!” Same if I go upstairs to take a shower. He’s also taken to making sure all the doors to the rooms on the second floor are shut. It’s not good enough for me to do the closing. He has to run up and check every one himself. It doesn’t matter if we tell him ahead of time what we are going to do. He still freaks out, and his autism makes it difficult to soothe him, much less change these behaviors. Often I am contending with tears, screaming, and someone who’s about 85 pounds clinging to me like an octopus.

I know that he is not trying to be “difficult.” His doctor told me that when children undergo significant internal shifts, they sometimes try to exert extra control over their surroundings to soothe themselves. His teacher confirmed that she had seen many a third grader—the “magic” age when kids start to realize how big the world is—display similar, dysregulated states.

In short, my son is probably experiencing some developmental growing pains and he’s doing whatever it takes to get through it.

I can relate. When I’m stressed, I want my kitchen cleaned and my desktop cleared.  I want meals planned and laundry folded. It also helps if I look down and see two perfectly “pedicured” feet. I confess, these tendencies might seem trivial when compared with the seismic suffering of war, famine, and sickness being endured throughout the world. The people in the grip of those scourges don’t have the luxury of being discomfited by details. They are simply trying to survive from one day to the next.

Still, as one cartoon character is known to say: I yam what I yam. And this also applies to my son. The question remains: what to do about it? How do we navigate our way through the storm? Something I saw recently speaks to the issue.

On many Sundays after church, my husband and I take our son mall-walking. It’s a good way to get exercise and my son really seems to enjoy it (riding elevators and escalators especially). On a recent trip, as we exited the premises for our car, a strange sight caught my eye. Outside, connected to the mall, was a restaurant with a large statue of a horse at its entrance. At the bottom of the horse’s front right hoof someone had stretched open a pair of eyeglasses. There they sat, perched on the only part of the horse that a person could reach. They looked so mislaid and forlorn to me. Why had they been arranged so? Would their owner ever retrieve them—important and expensive as they probably were? Were they dismayed over their loss, running around in circles trying to find them?

The whole thing got me thinking about where I set my sights when life throws me for a loop—especially when that loop looks like one of deadlier rides at an amusement park. Right now my son reaches for a doorknob, or grasps my body to cope with his stressors. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I, too, reach for more immediate resources in my surroundings.

Recently I have been experiencing three different health issues, which have required the attention of three different doctors. Thankfully, all three were readily accessible to me and I was able to make appointments and get the help I needed. I felt very grateful to God for the luxury of top notch medical provision—but then I had a stunning realization. As wise as it was for me to seek assistance from these providers, I hadn’t actually prayed to God directly about any of the issues. I hadn’t sought discernment, either through Scripture reading, journaling, or sitting in silence alone before God.

Oops.

I’ve also noticed that while I am quick to report my son’s struggles to his therapists and doctors, I’m slow to actually pray about those too. Yes, God has placed wonderful professionals in our path to pull us from the quagmires he repeatedly falls into. But they do not replace the Creator who made him, guides him, protects him, and ultimately will turn all of his troubles for good.

I can’t be too hard on myself for this lapse, serious as it is, because it does take all of my energy to chase down the support my son needs. It’s more than a full-time job keeping watch over him, one that requires quick responses to complex problems. But I do note the disparity between my behavior and the way Jesus constantly sought his Father’s presence as the demands of his ministry piled high. I’m usually knee-deep in adversity before I wake up and realize that: Oh yeah, I can pray. 

Seeing those glasses on that hoof awakened a deep longing in me to become more aware of the divine thread running through my daily circumstances, the willingness of God to respond with love and kindness to my plight, whatever it might be. Even though I am inarguably middle aged now, I often feel like a child who needs a hand to hold onto, a voice to reassure and guide her. In other words, I want to set my sights higher, and not just plow through my days problem-solving on my own, as adept as I may seem at doing so.

In my mind’s eye I see Abraham, journeying with Isaac towards Mount Moriah after God has secretly commanded him to offer up his child as a sacrifice there. Genesis 22 does not tell us about Abraham’s inner turmoil as he makes this journey with his unsuspecting son. Our only clue to his utter horror are the words of endearment Abraham uses whenever his son speaks to him, repeatedly calling him, “my son.” (Gen 22:7, 8). In fact, if we go back, we hear God himself refer to the boy in devastatingly intimate terms: “your son, your only son, whom you love” (Gen 22:2). There can be no mistake: what Abraham feels on the inside towards his child and what he is about to do to him on the outside cannot clash more astoundingly.

In particular, I’m pondering the point when Abraham, on the third day of his journey, “lifted up his eyes and saw the place from a distance.” (Gen 22:4). The root word for “lift” or “na-SAH” (נשׂא) indicates the physical act of raising something upwards. Given the violence of Abraham’s emotions in this moment, however, I sense that this verb communicates more than a mere movement of his eyes. When Abraham’s eyes go up, his soul plummets down—down to that hell where the world in which he lives no longer contains the light of his life—and it will have been his own hand that brutally, bloodily, snuffed it out.

Contrast this with a well-known poem in the psalter:

I will lift (נשׂא – same verb) up my eyes to the mountains;

From whence shall my help come?

My help comes from the Lord

Who made heaven and earth.

(Psalm 121:1-2)

Before I used to read this psalm as a kind of an idyllic poem. I pictured its author outside, eyes fixed on a mountain range, heart moved to praise by the beauty that surrounds him.

Now I wonder if these opening words convey so much more than a creature’s admiration for his Creator’s handiwork. Twice he refers to “my help” (עֶזְרִֽי – or “ez-REE”). Perhaps, he is having as profound a realization as Abraham’s when he gazed upon Mount Moriah. Only the psalmist’s revelation illuminates rather than eviscerates his soul. He grasps in a newfound way that he will never be left alone, that the Maker of the whole world has promised to look after him all the days of his life. Indeed, the final two verses of the psalm bear this out:

The Lord will protect you from all evil;

He will keep your soul

The Lord will guard your going out and coming in

From this time forth and forever

(Psalm 121:7-8)

My version of such a revelation might be stated like this:

You are SAFE.

Your boy is SAFE.

I will watch over him

And you

No matter what comes

Forever.

What special needs parent wouldn’t give their right arm to hear such words, spoken over them?

And if one could really absorb the surety of God’s nearness, would it not spark an uptick in prayer? Wouldn’t the natural response be to speak with Him about anything and everything, hoping He’s paying attention as He has promised?

Friends, He’s paying attention.

He is waiting for you to circle back from all your activity, put on your frames of faith, and look up.

Lift up your eyes—your soul—and know anew that the Lord is good. He will bring you through whatever tough spot you’re trapped in right now, placing your feet on solid ground again.

Case in point: my son, who has serious language deficits, said “cash register” and “hedgehog” the other night. Or very close approximations of these words so that I recognized them. They are not mainstream nouns. Along with his anxious behaviors, my husband and I are witnessing movement in our son’s speech, if we will allow our beat-up hearts to believe what we are hearing.

They often go hand-in-hand, a lot of hard challenge and a smidge of good change. God knows what we need to carry on, when on the outside it simply looks like things are “difficult.” I say, take hold of every bit of encouragement and press into prayer more. Don’t get so caught up in utilizing the tools God has given you that you neglect talking with Him about the problem directly. He’s still the starting point of every solution you seek.

The second time Abraham lifts up his eyes at Mount Moriah he spots the ram that will take his son’s place as a sacrifice (Gen 22:13).

Think, we might catch sight of something we need just as desperately as Abraham did that substitute. We may find what preserves life and protects what we love most.

So come, take a deep breath, and lift up your eyes. Make room for whatever God wants to show you in this moment.

You are His child, His only-child-like-you, whom He loves.

Provision for your problem, peace for your anxiety, are on the way.