I just finished reading Michelle Anthony's book Spiritual Parenting. At its core, Spiritual Parenting is not a book on "how-to parenting." It is a book about how to view your role as a spiritually minded parent. Essentially, it asks the question,
“What is my end goal in raising the children God has entrusted to me, and then how will I parent them with that end in mind?"
Her book reminds me that as I seek to live out the life I was created to live in Christ as a parent of children on the autism spectrum, I need to genuinely ask the primary question that she puts forth:
"Who did God create my child to be?"
This is a challenging question for me because two of my boys are on the severe end of the autism spectrum. Both of them lack so many life-skills. I can, and have, become so focused at home on their cognitive, social, and communication deficits that I have neglected their spiritual identity. It's not intentional; it's just that there seems to be so many critical skills to work on that the spiritual side of their lives gets crowded out.
And yet the question "Who did God create my child to be?" helps me to begin to understand God's heart for me as a parent of boys with special needs. When I ask myself, "Is God more concerned about what I can do or who I become?" the answer is obvious: who I become. If I truly believe that, then I have to come to the realization that the same answer also holds true for my boys with autism.
Each of us is created in His image. We bear His DNA. During this season of my life of being a parent, don't I ultimately want my children to look like Jesus? Yes and that is a much higher and eternal calling as a parent than trying to sink all of my time and energy into life-skills. Again, let me say that focusing on developing life-skills IS important. But in the bigger picture I believe that:
It's not what my boys can do, but who they will become that truly matters to God.
God is in the process of writing a larger story line. One that includes me...and you. It also includes our children no matter the label that might have been given them. Each of us has a part to play in His story and that part depends more on who are --in Christ--than it does the talents and skills that we develop over time.
For this reason I'm going to start spending more time at home focusing on the faith development of my children.
- Will it be easy. No.
- Will it require that I sacrifice working on cognitive, social, or functional life-skills with them. Yes.
- Will it be worth it? Most definitely!
If you'd like to join me on this journey I'd appreciate it. I need all of the encouragement that I can get ... and I'd be happy to be a source of encouragement for you too as you walk the path that God has set before you.