This morning Salem and Deanne had to brave the frigid morning air early because Salem had an appointment for an autism evaluation at 8:30 AM. It was a three-hour appointment in which Salem was constantly tested and Deanne was constantly filling out paperwork, something we hope to do less of in 2022 after all we did last year with transferring our lives to Kansas. I don’t know if it's common practice for the results to be given during the appointment but today they were.
I was staying home with Eden and Ezra and was on the phone when I saw Deanne’s call coming through. They were finally done and Salem was officially diagnosed with autism. It may seem strange to you, but my first reaction was to chuckle because we both already knew. There was no surprise so it felt a bit like stating the obvious. Then a moment later I felt a tinge of sadness for our little buddy to live a life that is so different. How will the world treat him, this part of my heart that exists outside of my body. As much as we love on him and do what we can to protect him and help him thrive, he still has to endure the hard elements of this life. Then I felt grateful. I’m grateful because reality has to be embraced to be able to move forward. I am thankful for the services he has received up to this point and the further therapy he will receive.
Deanne and I can feel all of those and other emotions within moments because of where we’ve already been on the journey. We have grieved the hard to discard “normal” expectations and hopes for our family. We know what it is to be misunderstood because of our unique situation. We know what it is to be given words that are supposed to help but actually kind of sting. Things process a lot different and often faster at this point on the journey than they used to. Sometimes our feelings of pain and loss surprise us. What we know for sure is that God is with us, providing for us and that he has plans for Salem and the rest of the Snells.
There are gifts in being unique. We all kind of love having Salem linger as an innocent little one to take care of and, when he lets us, hold like a baby. We don’t love the diapers but there is a lot of unexpected humor as he both stays young and doesn’t feel the need to follow social norms. Just last week he some how got the cap off his diaper cream and spread it all over his bed, stuffed animals, and clothes. He also repeats just about any interesting sound he hears. It can be really funny. The sadness of having to let go of our own plans and choose to sacrifice for Salem has made us more who we ultimately want to be. As he requires more patience, we grow in patience for one example. For another, it’s helped us to love even when it’s difficult, not just Salem but to value people not just for what they can do to impress but just because they are God’s creation.
Sometimes being misunderstood can help you to be more understanding. Being different can make you more interesting as well. It can make you more precious in some ways, like something special, like a rare treasure.
I don’t mean to go on like this about my family but I actually am going on about you as well. As followers of Christ we live for a backwards and upside down kingdom where the least is the greatest and the last is the first, where winning is found through losing and life is received through death. As Adventists, we are unique in many ways from keeping the Sabbath holy to haystacks. Some ways are funny. Some may make us sad and cause us to want to downplay our unique identity, to blend in. But ultimately I hope we will be grateful and embrace the reality God has called us into and move forward, growing in His love.
As the old King James says: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light…”
There are gifts to being peculiar or different. Embrace them. We are chosen to be different in the best ways and to praise God all the while as we live in Jesus’ marvelous light. - Pastor Nick