Grace Even in the Angry Room
Have you ever been angry at God?
As difficult as it is to admit, I’ve been angry at God, especially in my journey as a mom.
The other day, I took Rachel, my daughter with autism, to one of her favorite places. I’ll call it “Super Fun Land” (SFL) because my purpose is not to be disrespectful to the actual place we went. (A manager has even apologized for the incident.)
“We’re going to Super Fun Land,” I announced.
Rachel ran to the closet and grabbed a dress to wear. The same dress, in fact, she wore a year ago, which was the last time we visited SFL. She might have trouble communicating verbally, but she communicates some things really well. She wanted SFL to be the same experience she had last time.
But there was a problem, and we didn’t discover it until AFTER we had bought the non-refundable $80 tickets online, driven the 40 minutes to SFL, and waited in a long line to get inside. Rachel was too tall by about half an inch for the Super Fun Climbing Structure with the Super Fun Blocks that Rachel loved. For an entire year, Rachel looked at the pictures of herself playing with the Super Fun Blocks and asked me to take her back. She was finally here. But too tall.
So, when we took off her shoes and stood in line to get into the Super Fun Blocks, the slightly socially awkward teen manning the block entrance did not know what to do with us. Rachel wouldn’t stand right up against the sign to be scrutinized and measured to the exact inch to see if she was too tall. He assumed her non-compliance was because she was trying to cheat.
But she didn’t understand. So often the world to Rachel is like watching a movie in another language without subtitles or context. She doesn’t understand when a stranger tells her to put her heel against the sign and quit trying to slouch. Repeatedly. Neither did the teen block gatekeeper understand when I explained Rachel had autism and had difficultly following directions quickly. And Rachel certainly didn’t understand why she was turned away from her favorite Super Fun Block time.
How do you explain “You’re half an inch too tall” without subtitles or context, so to speak?
Rachel started crying. I started redirecting. Except there seemed to be 10,ooo people there that day, so I couldn’t find anything else for us to do to take her mind off the Super Fun Blocks. The only thing open was this 10-minute 3-D film, which neither of us enjoy.
Rachel stomped her feet and did the best to communicate her desires in the few sign language signs she knew that applied to the situation. “Black. Blocks. Red. Blocks. Green. Blocks.”
I did my best to hug her and say, “I’m sorry. You’re too tall.”
She thought I didn’t understand. She thought I was saying no. She thought she had come to SFL to play in the blocks.
I kept trying to to tell her that the rules said she was too tall. (Um … after a few minutes I might also have said, “The mean guy at the blocks won’t let you go.”)
We both spiraled downward. Rachel cried louder and kept signing “blocks.” If there’s anything I’ve learned about the way autism affects Rachel, it’s that she can perseverate—or stay stuck on the same subject for days, weeks, and even months. I kept telling her I understood, but I couldn’t change the rules. We were two aliens in the dark, trying to communicate in different languages. Rachel grabbed my phone and showed me the picture of her last year, in the same dress, playing in those Super
Fun Stupid Blocks.
At that point, I swore we would never return to Super
Fun Land ever again. But we were stuck. I wanted to end on a happy note, or she would obsess about the experience more. Plus, as irritated as my mother’s heart was toward the Block Gatekeeper, and as much as I wanted to demand he let her in to play with the Stupid Blocks, he was just following the rules. Rachel has to learn there are rules, and we all have to follow them.
Rachel grabbed my phone and handed it to a stranger because obviously her mother was too dim to understand she just wanted the blocks. Fortunately, that lady was a special education teacher and understood why my hysterical child was handing her random electronics.
At that point, it felt like shards of glass clogged my throat. Tears poured in streams down both our faces. People stared at us. And I didn’t know how to fix it, so instead I had a temper tantrum toward God. I yelled in my head like a toddler resisting nap time. It’s not fair! I hate this! I feel so sorry for my baby! Why did you let this happen! I even said some things I’d rather not print. A friend, fellow writer, and mom of a child who has gone through treatment for leukemia twice calls that “Being in the angry room.”
I wasn’t just in the angry room, I was kicking the walls and throwing the furniture. Why did my child have to suffer all the time? It wasn’t that I expected everyone to bend the rules for us. My pain is that I feel so helpless. I’m a speech-language pathologist who is supposed to help children improve their lives with better communication. But I can’t help my own child speak! I try so hard to be patient and to accept Rachel’s issues, but it’s not fair for her! I know life isn’t fair, but it’s so painful to watch my child suffer.
After my tantrum, shame washed over me. How could God love me when I acted like that? What kind of person was I to question God and to yell at him?
I’ll tell you what kind of person: a human. With feelings. Who loves her child more than she loves herself. Who sees injustice and longs for things to be put right. A person who has learned to love beyond what she ever thought capable. And a person who loves her child fiercely even when her child is having a tantrum over something she doesn’t understand.
Kind of ironic, when I thought about it.
So, even while I sat in the dark theater with Rachel crying next to me, I realized again how deep God’s love is for us, His children. The love of a mother, while amazing and deep and beautiful, is only a dim picture of the depth of God’s love for all of us, for His children. I might not like it when my children have fits, but it never changes the depth to which I love them. Nor does it change how much God loves us.
Once again, in a dark place, I experienced the light of grace that I never would have seen if not for the agony in my heart.
I’m not saying that is the reason Rachel is autistic, but I am saying that we can experience grace and blessings in our dark places.
Sometimes it is in the dark that we learn to see light. And it is in my moments of pain and trial when I learn more about how deep and wide God’s grace really is.