I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works… Psalm 139:14
It’s a verse many of us have heard before. We post it on social media, hang it on our walls, remind our friends, and repeat it in our minds. We may even say that we believe it to be true. The problem is we don’t always like who we were made to be; we really want to be someone else.
When my son was in the sixth grade, he became aware of his autism diagnosis. We didn’t ever hide it from him. We talked about his autism quite openly, but he didn’t fully understand what it meant until the day he came home from school with his annual paperwork.
Every year my husband and I would meet with school administrators, teachers, and therapists to discuss my son’s status. We talked about what goals he was meeting, his strengths and weaknesses, his therapy requirements, and his future goals. The paperwork he brought home was a written copy of all that had been discussed, as well as his diagnosis of autism. He asked if he could read what was in the packet. I told him that since it was all about him, he could. When he was done, he was angry. He began yelling, “It says I have autism. I DO NOT HAVE AUTISM!” I told him that he did; that’s why he went to therapy for all those years, that’s why he had a behavior plan at school, that’s why he was pulled out of class sometimes. He didn’t want to hear it. He didn’t want to have autism.
It took several months for him to process his diagnosis. We spent a lot of time talking about autism and how in manifests itself in him. We talked about how it didn’t make him less, it just meant his brain worked differently. We reminded him a lot of the above verse. It was a hard thing for him to accept. He didn’t want to be different. He didn’t want to be ‘special’. He didn’t want to be unique. He wanted to be something else.
Much like my son, I find it difficult to accept how God has made me. I know I have been fearfully and wonderfully made by God. He gave me certain gifts and talents. Add to that the life experiences I’ve had, and you get ME. The problem is, I want different gifts; I want to be a different ME. I want the creativity I see in my friends whose Pinterest projects turn out even better than the ones online. I want the voice and musical gifts of my friends leading worship. I want the drive and energy of people who seem to do three days work in on day without breaking a sweat. I want the compassion of my friends who seem to always know what to say and do when they meet someone who is hurting. And I’d like this all wrapped up in a taller, fitter body with a brain that learns new technology without effort. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
So God is teaching me to accept the way He made me. To accept not only the gifts and talents He has given me, but also my shortcoming. This process is uncomfortable because I have to see myself for who I really am, not who I want to be. I have to accept that although I love music, I do not have the skills necessary to make it on The Voice. I have to accept that I struggle with new technology and I need someone in person to teach me, not online tutorials. I have to accept that I work better with outside deadlines because the ones I make for myself don’t help. I have to accept my tendency to procrastinate, for perfectionism, and negative self-talk. I have to accept these things and work with them, not wish them away.
My son now fully acknowledges his diagnosis. He talks about how God made him special. He understands that the autism affects the way his brain works and how he processes things. He knows that he may do things a little differently than his siblings and that’s okay. He knows his strengths and continues to learn more about his weaknesses and how to overcome them. He’s learned coping skills and when to ask for help. He’s accepted the man God’s made him to be.
I, too, am learning to embrace who I am, weaknesses and all. In the process, I’m finding freedom. Freedom to embrace and honor the gifts I’ve been given. Freedom from lamenting the gifts I don’t have. Freedom to ask for help in areas where I’m weak without feeling like a failure. Freedom to celebrate the gifts and accomplishments of others. Freedom to be karen and know that’s enough…