Last week I scrolled through picture after picture of friends wearing blue and proclaiming their awareness of autism. But what happens today, when I’m at the grocery store and James has a meltdown on the cereal aisle? Or when I have to lift my seven-and-a-half-year-old onto the diaper changing table at Target? When I feel like we’re making everyone in a five-mile radius aware of autism, but that no one truly cares?
This is our fourth year completely aware of autism, not just on April 2nd, but every day of the year. Through the years, Autism Awareness Month has brought out different emotions. Appreciation for sure, for so many lighting it up blue and for all the posts from fellow autism parents who make me laugh or cry (or both).
Last year, Autism Awareness Month made me brave. James and I went on lots of adventures together and as a family. I didn’t care if he stood up in our booth at Chili’s and sang the Gilmore Girls theme song. I didn’t care if he bumped into strangers at the grocery store (that proprioception is tough, y’all).
But this year I’m feeling like all this awareness isn’t making much difference.
Sure my favorite airline may Tweet their support, but will their ticket agent let us board early as a family when we fly? Will the flight attendant understand why it’s hard for me to keep James in his seat belt? Will the passenger in front of him huff when James is noisy or kicks his seat?
When we visit a different church in the coming weeks because Lee is on sabbatical, and I ask where to take James, will they have an answer? Will they turn us away?
When I email our special ed office (again) will I get the run around (again)? Or will they try their best to make a hard situation a little easier? Will they treat us as a family who is trying our best to support our son, or as another family that requires more of the tax payers’ money than the average first grade student?
I’m tired of having to plan ahead for every possible outcome. Of throwing a diaper in my purse any time we leave the house. Of packing different food for James every time we go out to eat. Of being a cause for people to rally around when it’s convenient for them.
But I woke up this morning ready to do it anyway. Why?
Because God sees. He hears.
We see that in the pages of Genesis. Hagar was in an impossible situation, alone and desperate. She had obeyed her mistress Sarai and did what she was supposed to do. Now that Hagar was carrying Abram’s child, Sarai turned on her. She fled to the wilderness. The angel of the Lord met there. He told her she would bear a son and name him Ishmael, which means “God hears.”
Hagar responded, “So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me’” (Genesis 16:13).
She called Him El Roi, the God who sees me. She named her son Ishmael, God hears.
Friends, we don’t have a god who is distant, or busy, or hands-off. He sees. He hears. He knows.
In the middle of a melt down, in the public bathroom, at the crowded restaurant. When it feels like all that work we do for autism awareness is making no difference in our daily lives. I remember God sees. He sees everything—the struggles, the triumphs, the lows, the highs. God hears. He hears everything—the cries, the laughter, the whispers.
If you feel invisible or alone, know that you aren’t. Like Hagar, praise God for seeing and hearing you today.