This past month, I keep encountering a certain word. After I reflected on it twice, it continues to show up in different contexts. Now it really has my attention. I’ve been asking myself, “What am I supposed to learn from this?” Well, let’s see if by the end of this post I have that figured out.
The word is “trapped.” Trapped. I start to feel a little claustrophobic just staring at the word.
The first time it grabbed my attention was when I was looking at a blog post written by a couple from church that is doing missions work in Haiti. Mind you, I read this a couple weeks before the earthquake hit. They stopped to visit an orphanage–a mission for handicapped children–at Christmastime. Many children with severe mental and physical handicaps are simply abandoned, “left with little hope for someone ever loving or caring for them.” I looked at the pictures, and my heart broke. I thought of my own son. If he had been born in a different geographical location and under different terms, what would become of a little boy like him?
This statement jumped out at me: “Several were in wheelchairs TRAPPED in a body and mind that didn’t work like ours. Others had bodies that served them, but minds that didn’t.” I cried. Who will love them? Who will go after them? My son has a trapped mind in a body that works and looks perfectly normal.
Shortly after, I saw this YouTube video of a lovely, well-spoken 17-year-old with autism who was able to articulate what it was like when she was Josiah’s age. She said, “It was akin to being trapped. I couldn’t communicate or express myself in any way. I had to be taught how… they are desperate. They can’t communicate. They feel trapped… If you open the doors to try to get them to communicate you give them hope to get connected to this world, and ultimately to be much more successful.”
And then, the Haiti earthquake hit. I watched a news report about how there were little to no officials or equipment on the scene to try to recover people from the rubble. The reporter said family members and friends were desperate trying to get to their loved ones themselves. They were grabbing at concrete and trying to use hand picks to get through tons of rubble because they could hear the faint cries and screams underneath. An impossible task, really. Yet, how could they stop? They could still hear life.
I know it’s not the same thing, but it made me think about our kids with autism. Everywhere we turn, there seems to be obstacles to breaking through to them. Something completely blindsided us. We’ve been left with a mess and wondering “why?” The “professionals” are really not at the scene digging like they should or seemingly could with the equipment and resources they must have. But, it is parents and some friends–desperate ones–digging. Lifting off one piece of rock at a time with their bare hands, if they must, to reach their children. Because as long as they are “in there,” the drive is relentless to get them out.
Back to Haiti… Someone is not supposed to be able to live more than 72 hours without water. In 72 hours, rescue begins to turn to a recovery mission. Urgency gives way to a pace devoid of the same hope to pull someone out alive. But a little 5-year-old boy was found alive 8 days after the earthquake. A 16-year-old girl was just rescued alive after 15 days of being trapped. I’m thinking at this point that perhaps we should redefine “impossible.”
Two days ago, my husband and I took Josiah to a new place to obtain some speech therapy on top of the full-time therapy he’s already getting at an autism center. He started out just fine until the new therapist started placing too many demands too quickly and he became so upset and stressed. She thought it might be better for Joe and I to leave the room for a little while and see if she could calm him down. We could view the room from a television. We watched our little son go under a table in the corner and ball up into a fetal position, crying. It’s not that the therapist was mean or anything, it was all just too much for him. He was feeling trapped. He LOOKED very autistic at that moment. My heart began to collapse. “How do I rescue him? It’s been 2 1/2 years, and he’s still trapped. Words and understanding are still illusive. How do we break through?” I felt trapped.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about being a “prisoner of hope.” Essentially, being trapped in hope. This is the scripture it was based on: “Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you” (Zech. 9:12). That verse has been very empowering to me. But I realized something very profound in my own life recently. Hope is so good, but it is inferior to faith, and it’s not the same thing. I needed to lock myself into a prison of hope for a while to escape from being trapped by despair. But, now it’s time to experience faith‘s fight and freedom. Hope says, “It can happen.” Faith says, “It will happen.” Hope is really the springboard to faith, because it says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). Faith reaches for the results that hope maintains a yearning for.
Holding on to hope can keep you alive for quite a long time while you’re trapped. But faith is needed to bust you out to a new reality. It just takes a little bit of faith, Jesus said, and you can say, “mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. NOthing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20).
Nothing is impossible. So just know that I’m coming for you, Jo Jo! We’re pulling you out. I know you like tight spaces, but I want to see you in the wide open.