Romancing the Soul: What I’ve Learned as a Parent of an Autistic Child

Romance is in the air—at least according to the grocery store isle. Valentine’s candy and gifts fill every available space.

So, I’ve been contemplating: What is romance?

My following conclusion might not be what you’d expect, but perhaps I have found the greatest romance of all.

When Rachel was little, she had frequent fits. Not “didn’t get my way” fits. It was like night terrors, except any time of the day or night. She could scream for an hour without stopping. One night, while visiting my sister, Rachel had one of her fits. She stood up and screamed. And screamed.

Afraid we were keeping the entire neighborhood awake, hubby and I tried to hold her, but she knocked all attempts away. We tried to say soothing words to her, but she kicked and screamed louder. We tried to sit by her, but she swatted at anything that came close.

I looked at hubby through bleary eyes. “Do we need an old priest and a young priest?”

He let out a small laugh and shook his head. But we both were thinking the same thing: Maybe we do … and wouldn’t that be nice? To have a solution to this.

But there was no quick solution, no miracle that made her well. We were helpless. She was unreachable. Autism held her in an unyielding grip of isolation. The only thing we could do was love her from afar and reach out to her even though she gave us nothing in return.

It wasn’t until Rachel was past age three that she began wanting me to hold her. Then she wanted me to carry her all the time. And I did for years, even after she reached 50 pounds. People told me to stop, but how could I help them see that this was one of the only times my baby wanted me to hold her? That I was making up for years of lost time? That I was so glad she finally accepted any kind of affection from me? I was going to take all I could get.

Even though I had been there for Rachel her entire life, it was like autism had blinded her to my mothering love, had stolen from her the close bond we should have had.

In talking to hubby about this post, he said it so succinctly. “I did not grasp the depth of God’s love, the way He romances us daily even if we offer Him nothing in return, until we had Rachel.”

And that is the heart of the matter:

The Divine Romance: God always opens his arms to us. He wants to carry us through trials. He, a perfect God, even died a brutal death for the object of His love: us.

So many people, like my beautiful daughter Rachel, fail to grasp the idea of the Divine Romance from the One who reaches for us always. Who longs to hold us, His children. Even when we shove Him away, He still loves, still waits with open arms. His heart might break at the lack of response, but He always loves, always hopes, always protects.

So, what is my idea of romance? It is learning that if I, an imperfect person, can love my child even when I receive nothing to return, then I can see a glimpse of how deeply Jesus loves children, even when we feel we have nothing to offer him.

And this, my friends, is the greatest romance of all.

Where have you seen glimpses of the depths of God’s love?

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11 thoughts on “Romancing the Soul: What I’ve Learned as a Parent of an Autistic Child

  1. Love it Jenn! Thank you so much. And just in case you have forgotten today, you are doing an awesome job at being a Mom, it is clear in your words of love for your girls. God Bless.
    K

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  2. How well you crafted your words around a subject we might not understand: how God loves us even when we don’t understand love. Such a heartache for parents and grandparents when you have a child with autism. Thankfully Rachel is now to the point that you can touch her and she will allow you to hug her when she is leaving. She always sign back to me when I show her the sign for “I love you”. Many times during her 9 years I have seen her just focusing on the ceiling. I have felt that she was communicating with God.

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  3. I like the bottom statement about God’s love always there that is w
    aiting for the day when we can respond.

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  4. “So, what is my idea of romance? It is learning that if I, an imperfect person, can love my child even when I receive nothing to return, then I can see a glimpse of how deeply Jesus loves children, even when we feel we have nothing to offer him.” – WOW!
    Not to in anyway compare my situation to yours but when my firstborn daughter was an infant she had colic and would cry from approximately 5:00 in the evening to about 11:00 at night. Every. Night. Until she eventually grew out of it. The only thing that would keep her somewhat calm was me holding her and pacing around the house or me holding her and running the vacuum. I know this sounds strange but I feel like it was this particular time that I felt the same thing you are describing, loving this tiny being and trying to comfort her when she could do absolutely nothing for me in return. What a small sample of God’s unbelievable love for us!!!!

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    • Heather,
      Thanks for sharing! You are so right about how loving a baby is a sample of God’s unbelievable love for us.
      I had the same situation with my firstborn re: colic. She would start crying everyday at 6 p.m., so I would start crying around 5, knowing what awaited me. :-). Six hours of screaming is really, really tough on a mom! I remember feeling so helpless. I think you know exactly how I feel. Hugs to you! Thanks for your sweet heart, mom!

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  5. Beautiful. Thank you for putting into words what I think the Lord has been trying to convey to me for some time now. God bless you and your family

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