I want to be gentle here...
MANY parents ruminate over this concern. I did myself when our son was born with Hemophilia A - Severe 14 years ago. Parents like us often wonder if our child's special needs are due to something we did wrong on some level.
But as we grow to know God and work through our grief, we grow to reconcile our sorrow with a loving, generous God. We have the unique opportunity to learn while our lives aren't perfect, our Creator certainly is!
That is why I had a face-meet-palm experience when a friend shared THIS news: Toni Braxton has come out in her newly released book stating her belief that her son's autism diagnosis is the Lord's punishment for an abortion she previously had in 2001.
Oh, where to start with this one...
First and foremost, let me state that any personal conviction Toni Braxton feels is between her and a personal, loving God, who only wants the best for her. If you are a student of the Lord's love letter to you, the Bible, you know that there are times where the unrepentant see their children reap the reward for their parents' disobedience. (See Exodus 12:28-30) If this woman has learned that God got her attention through tragedy, that is between her and Him.
However, I can't help but think of Psalm 103 (among many other Bible citations) which reminds us that the Lord is compassionate, slow to anger, gracious, and loving. In verse 10, the psalmist proclaims, "...He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities." (NIV) Mercy is the hallmark of our Father, not cruelty.
"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Jesus states with all authority Matthew 7:11, NIV.
What gets lost when a famous person like Toni Braxton publicly declares such thoughts is the awesome parent-nature of God. It only reinforces a harsh, angry, distant Creator who can unpredictably zap us at any turn. In many third world cultures, parents of children with special needs are ostracized because their children's disabilities are seen as some sort of punishment. There can still tend to be that sort of undercurrent in our post-modern culture. Statements like Braxton's only perpetuate those sentiments.
Furthermore, I would never want my child to perceive herself or her spectrum diagnosis as the Lord's punishment on me. She is not a punishment. She is a gift. That makes Braxton's self-flagellation so hard to swallow.
Are so many pieces of Autism Spectrum Disorders a challenge to deal with? Abso-stinkin-lutely! It can be exhausting, discouraging, worrisome, and frustrating. But so can many, many other things in our lives. This is a fallen world. It isn't heaven. And God continues to shape our character, growing us into ever-more remarkable individuals by the struggles we face in life.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9, NIV
I like to declare that, "My God is the God of do-overs!" Not only am I learning on life's journey, but He continues to give me more chances to "get it right" than any instructor I have ever encountered. He is patient with me. He loves me. And He continues to sand off my rough edges with the grittiness of life.
Let me leave you with a better picture of Who our God is through this catchy little jingle. Perhaps Toni Braxton needs to give it a listen!
~ Barb Dittrich
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