an autism journey

I knew when I married my husband 20 years ago, that he was going into the ministry. I also knew that I wasn’t going to fit the mold of a “typical” pastor’s wife. I didn’t sing. I didn’t play piano. I was quiet and shy, and the idea of standing in front of a group of people gave me butterflies.  I knew it would not be easy, but I loved the man I was going to marry. I believed in what he was doing. I had a strong faith, and I trusted that God would give me the skills I needed to fulfill the role He was calling me into.

I tried to fit the mold early on. I tried to push myself to be what I thought a pastor’s wife should be.  I remember a situation the first year we were married, when my husband was serving as a youth pastor while finishing school. I was asked to simply read something during a missionary service. There was maybe 30 people in the sanctuary. I almost passed out…. literally. I forgot to breath while reading (yes, that IS possible). The room became blurry, I became dizzy, and I began to hyperventilate. I was never asked to stand on the platform for anything there ever again. Not my finest moment.

Through the years though, I found other things I was good at. I worked with the kids. I helped at youth events. I worked behind the scenes. I faithfully attended every service. I went to Bible Study. I attended prayer meetings. I greeted the newcomers and visited the sick and elderly.

And then, my son was diagnosed with autism. Things began to get harder and harder for him. I began to take on more and more as doctor appointments, therapies, and home ABA programs began to consume my time. Through it all, I began to sleep less and less, as he began to sleep less and less, and eventually something had to give. I tried to keep up with what I thought I was supposed to do as a pastor’s wife, but it just was no longer possible. My son needed me.

I haven’t sat in a Sunday morning service in years. I need to be with my son to help him be able to attend his own Sunday School and Children’s Church (and we often have to leave early). Sunday evening services are just too much for him altogether. He is uncomfortable with groups of people, and the music is too loud. Bible Studies are pretty much impossible. He has trouble sitting still for that long. The same goes for church socials.

When new people visit our church they often ask my husband if he has a wife. That one hurts. I don’t think everyone understands. I worry what the congregation will think. Does this make me look bad? Does this make my husband look bad as the pastor?

I have struggled with this. If God called me into the role of a pastor’s wife, then why is he not allowing me to fulfill that role? I feel a need to be the typical pastor’s wife, and yet I am not able. I have felt sad and guilty and frustrated. I recently began taking it to God (yes, I know He is probably thinking “why on earth are you just now getting around to giving this over to me?” )

I am beginning to realize that God doesn’t expect me to do it all. As a matter of fact, I think He would prefer I stop trying to do so. The thing is, I have been stuck on what I thought I was supposed to do and worrying about pleasing others, and thus failed. My role that I have been called to fill is that of a wife (who happens to be married to a pastor), and a mother of two children (one of whom happens to have autism). I can fulfill those roles (by the grace of God) and do them both well. I can pray for and support my husband. I can listen when he is frustrated. I can encourage him. I can pray for my church and the congregation. I can make phone calls. I can send cards. There are plenty of other things I can do, but I have to stop trying to do what myself or others expect and start filling the role of what God expects. It is only then that I can be a good mom and a good pastor’s wife all at the same time.

I am learning to let go of typical and make room for extraordinary and learning that life is just a little more joyful that way. I know… it is about time.

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