Living with fear is the worst way to live, but it seems to be our default human state. Behold, my current fears:
*Now that Jack is in residential care, my family won’t be special anymore. We won’t retain the lessons we have learned through him. We might become worldly, prideful, un-discerning.
*Jack will be unhappy in his new home. He will feel abandoned.
*I will have nothing to offer other parents who are still in the thick of special needs parenting. I will lose my connection to them, my understanding of their world, my writing purpose.
I hate even voicing them. But naming the monsters can reduce their size and threat. It can remove the thorn from my foot and cast it off into the scrub oak, where it belongs.
Alternatively, thinking about one’s fears can also invite them to set up camp in one’s mind. I don’t want them to feel welcome. I don’t want to nurture them at the campfire of my inner self, feed them stew and bread, and tuck them into their bedrolls. I’d rather head them off at the pass, with a shotgun and some salty words.
I see you, my fears. I know you are there, you can’t hide from me, you lousy, unwelcome turds. Don’t think I’m going to let you in so you can take over my life. Go on now, git!
(When you are using a shotgun on a figurative mountain pass in the wilderness to fend off your fears, you naturally use words like “git”).
I often instruct my sons in strategies for minimizing, calming, and disempowering their many fears. I’m good at telling them how to do it. I’m less good at rushing to do it for myself.
This morning I listened to Ether chapter 12, which is filled with iconic scriptures about faith, strength, and weakness—all of which I’ve read and heard many times. But the words never before struck me like they did today, like a gong sending waves of vibrating sound through my spirit.
“I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
“For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead; and he showed not himself unto them until after they had faith in him; wherefore, it must needs be that some had faith in him, for he showed himself not unto the world.
“But because of the faith of men he has shown himself unto the world, and glorified the name of the Father, and prepared a way that thereby others might be partakers of the heavenly gift, that they might hope for those things which they have not seen.
“Wherefore, ye may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith” (Ether 12:6-9).
I thought about the last few years of parenting Jack as I listened to these words. I couldn’t stop the heartache and the suffering we experienced with Jack’s disabilities and his violent behaviors. I couldn’t change our dysfunctional life by myself. But things actually DID begin to change when I underwent my non-ironic spiritual journey fifteen months ago and figuratively turned my life and Jack’s life over to my Heavenly Father. We became “partakers of the heavenly gift.”
Before that time, I understood the idea of faith. But I hadn’t, before that point, 3-D printed it as it were, into a fully-realized concept that I practiced. Before, faith for me was vague, a nebulous Sunday School answer. Last spring, faith became a real force.
It materialized into something I could wield.
Faith isn’t born of weakness or a dismissal of science. It isn’t blind religious obedience or academic naivete.
Faith is the magnetism of divine power interfacing with our desire to believe God and believe that He will help us.
Faith is us knowing that Jesus loves us so much that He died to redeem us, and because He did and because we believe it, not only do we believe He is working for our good, we see it.
“For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith” (Ether 12:12).
Here’s what I learned while I listened to these words this morning:
Faith is a real force.
There’s nothing wishful or vague or flimsy about it.
It’s the power through which God brings any good thing to fruition.
It’s not something that Christians made up. It’s the power underscoring all human life. It’s the reason we live on earth, with tragedy and hardship as our daily companions in this vale of tears (was there ever a more apt description? Answer: no).
Faith is the force which compelled us to choose life on earth, so we could grow as we demonstrated our faithfulness to God. Faith is what will bring us back to Him.
You guys, I know this because Jack is my son. Being his mother has never been easy. I have labored through sorrow these last thirteen years. But experiencing sorrow can bring discernment, clarifying what is good, valuable, vital.
Raising Jack has taught me that faith isn’t nebulous. It’s real and it’s our connection to God and to Jesus Christ.