Lately I’ve been talking to parents with really challenging autistic kids.

Now, without a doubt my kid is challenging. But he’s not violent to other kids. He doesn’t consistently disrupt his class to the extent that he gets moved to the severely impaired classroom. He doesn’t pinch his sister, consistently and hard, and absolutely deny the accusations. He doesn’t refuse to go poop in the toilet and go daily, instead, in his underwear at the age of six. He doesn’t come at me with knives.

That last paragraph is full of true situations. It’s full also of exhausted, bewildered parents.

A mom I spoke with today thought she was the only one who ever lost it with her special-needs kid and laid into him with anger. Ha! These kiddos seem to specialize in taking us to our edge — and often over our edge. I think that we parents, while working to control our emotions, need at the same time to be compassionate with ourselves. Our road is not easy, and adding guilt and shame creates a heaviness that makes it even harder to run the race.

And what a race it is. Not a sprint but possibly a lifelong marathon; not an easy lope but an intense run littered with potholes and unexpected obstacles.

Here’s what I’m learning from these parents: even as they struggle with the race, the race is struggling with them. It takes ordinary people and makes them do extraordinary things. It gives them more patience, compassion and insight than you’ll find in many others. It breaks them open so that God can come strongly through.

It is humiliation causing humility.

When I lived in spiritual community, a 12-step group came for the weekend. The minister doing Sunday service spoke about how, when you are really in a state of need, it’s so much easier to call on God. He said, “It almost makes you wish you were an alcoholic!”

The 12-Steppers were very upset about that.

But still. There is something to needing God urgently that makes us so much less complacent than the average bear. I don’t think God cares if we have cancer, or have been in a horrible accident, or have an autistic child, if it brings us closer to him/her. That is, after all, the end goal. The means is simply a means.

So how do we approach this marathon we’ve been given? I like what it says in Hebrews:

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

As the Olympics begin, I ponder one of the competitors, Oscar Pistorius. He is called the Blade Runner, or the fastest runner on no legs. A South African, this man runs with incredible speed using prostheses. He says, and I’m putting it in its own paragraph to give it emphasis:

You are not disabled by the disabilities you have. You are able by the abilities you have.

Now, here is an ordinary man doing extraordinary things, literally running the race God has set before him with endurance. And courage. He inspires me to think, not of Joseph’s disabilities, but of the things that truly make him able.
And me, too.

If Oscar can run the race with endurance, so can we. Living bravely, remembering that this is all a play of God, we too can be made into  extraordinary people.

Let’s do it, shall we? I mean, we’ve been handed this race called autism. What would it mean to run like the wind, even if we have no legs?