Not long ago a priest shared some guidance with my wife and me that has been the cause of a great deal of conversation and reflection in our home. In response to learning that we pray every day about our oldest son’s future and that he be healed of his autism, he encouraged us to pray first for acceptance.
Let me explain.
He said there was nothing wrong with asking God to heal our son. But, we first needed to ask for the ability to fully accept the beautiful gift of our child exactly as God created him. By asking for healing first, we were in essence asking God to improve on His creation without first understanding the lessons and blessings His gift has provided our family. We have always viewed our oldest son as a blessing and know we could not possibly love him more than we do now. But, we may have mistaken love for acceptance as we continued to pray over the years for God to remake him into our vision of a well-formed and perfect child. We have somewhat selfishly asked God to redo his handiwork when we should be accepting of God’s plan for his life and trusting that the Father who loves us wants only what is best for him. “If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge. You know that the foundation of the world is love, so that even when no human being can or will help you, you may go on, trusting in the One that loves you” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI).
Acknowledging this has been both humbling and illuminating as I think about how to apply “acceptance” into other areas of my life. This period of reflection has made me realize how often without thinking I ask God for His help in improving situations and solving problems. Instead of praying for acceptance and discernment about what lessons God wants to teach me or the blessings hidden in these challenges I have been seeking to reshape the issues into something more pleasing to me instead of pleasing to Him. Do you ever fall into the “acceptance trap” as well?
- Do we see the good that may come from being unemployed?
- Do we accept the blessings of an “unplanned” pregnancy?
- Do we see opportunities for spiritual growth in our emotional struggles and financial setbacks?
- Does illness (ours or others) offer opportunities to turn suffering into a blessing?
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Romans 8:18). It is often difficult to see the blessings and good in any kind of suffering, yet we know from Church teaching there is redemptive power in suffering if we learn to give it up to God. Practicing “acceptance” may require a radical recalibration of our mindsets as well as complete trust and faith in God’s plan for our lives. We must be faithful, humble, patient, obedient, and prayerful if we are to learn the lessons and blessings God has in store for us in our daily trials. We must also seek to glorify Him and not ourselves through the way we deal with challenges and always express our gratitude for the good and bad that comes our way. “We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials” (St. Teresa of Avila).
I can look back now and see the tremendous positive influence our oldest son has had on our family. His diagnosis with autism over fifteen years ago and the challenges this presented began the long and often difficult process of lowering the wall around my closed-off heart. In the summer of 2005 we moved into the area in which we now live to be closer to his school and therapists. This move began a chain of events that eventually led to our family joining the Catholic Church later that year. The opening of my heart which began at his diagnosis allowed me to experience a profound conversion experience in September of 2005 when I finally surrendered to Christ and put aside the pride and stubbornness which had dominated my life for so long. Without a doubt, our gifted child and his presence in our lives was a significant catalyst behind our joining the Catholic Church and the strong faith our family has today.
Maybe this was God’s plan all along for our son. I am just grateful that I can see it now and accept him, not only as one of my wonderful children who I love, but also as a child of God who was given to us for His divine purpose.
“Heavenly Father, I humbly ask that you grant me the gift of acceptance today. Please help me to understand the lessons and blessings hidden within the challenges my family and I will face and know that I am grateful to you for our lives and the incredible gift and sacrifice of your son Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Editor’s Note: Would you like to learn more about Randy Hain’s newest book? Special Children, Blessed Fathers: Encouragement for Fathers of Children with Special Needs (Foreword by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput) is available from Amazon and Emmaus Road Publishing in both hardcover and paperback.