Friday, January 21, 2011

"A Rough Companion"

This quote from "The Loveliness of Christ" seemed quite applicable to me as a Christian aspergers wife:

"He cutteth off your love to the creature, that ye might learn that God only is the right owner of your love, sorrow, loss, sadness, death, or the worst things that are, except sin:  but Christ knoweth well what to make of them, and can put his own in the crosses common, that we shall be obliged to affliction, and thank God, who learned us to make our acquaintance with such a rough companion, who can hale us to Christ."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Medicated Rose

Know that I am not at all 'throwing stones' at anyone who chooses medication to deal with their emotional problems.  If it works for you, then praise God!  I consider it for myself once per month at least. 

But two things stop me from accepting the offered prescriptions from my doctor.  One is that I really do grow more spiritually during the hard times and trials God gives me.  But to be very honest, that spiritual (ized?) reason alone doesn't stop me from taking meds.  You can certainly be a growing Christian while on medication!  What stops me dead in my tracks when I am tempted to take meds for emotional problems is the potential side effects and withdrawal issues that may result from the medicine itself.

Will Medicine Stop the Pain?: Finding God's Healing for Depression, Anxiety, and Other Troubling Emotions by Dr. Laura Hendrickson is definitely worth reading if you are considering or are taking such medications.  Dr. Hendrickson is a biblical counselor, mom to an autistic son, formerly a practicing psychiatrist, and once took some of these medications herself.  This book explores the reasons one should be very careful about certain medications and she shares her personal (and almost tragic) story from her time on anti-depressant medications.

Most close to home, though, is a friend of mine who has suffered from pain and depression for many years.  She is currently having horrific side effects from her years of being on anti-psychotic drugs.  She will tell you these side effects (which no doctor can figure out how to treat!) are worse than all the pain and all the depression she suffered for so long.  While watching her and seeing how awfully she is now daily suffering  from the side effects of a drug, I decide anew to keep plodding through these trials, unmedicated.

Please don't feel harshly judged if you are taking these meds.  I am very thankful for medications that help when we need them.  God uses many different means to work in different folks' lives.   However, I do encourage you to read Dr. Hendrickson's book to get a different perspective than many doctors may give you.  And then, whatever you decide, go forward in faith! 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Throwing Stones at Aspies

"When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  John 8:7

NT wives complain, rant, and rave with numerous "aspie attacks" on internet forums. It is actually quite frightening to read what some women will say (to the world!) about their husbands. These women obviously don't recognize the sin in their own hearts. They (and we) are all hypocrites.

John Calvin in his commentary on John 8:7 says "by this word he only reproves hypocrites, who mildly flatter themselves and their vices, but are excessively severe, and even act the part of felons, in censuring others. No man shall be prevented by his own sins from correcting the sins of others, and even from punishing them, when it may be found necessary, provided that both in himself and in others he hate what ought to be condemned; and in addition to all this, every man ought to begin by interrogating his own conscience, and by acting both as witness and judge against himself, before he come to others. In this manner shall we, without hating men, make war with sins."

So without hating the aspie, and all the while hating the sin in our own hearts, one can ask "What are the particular sins common to Asperger's Syndrome?" One counseling lecture entitled "How To Counsel an Adult with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome" explored how the aspie is often very selfish.  Not considering others' perspectives and feelings is certainly self-centered and selfish. The aspie may have no comprehension that he is being selfish and likely has no intention of being selfish. And this makes change seem impossible.  But his not acknowledging his sin, especially once it is explained to him, is evidence of sinful pride. He is too proud to show humility by acknowledging (though others expressly point it out to him) that he is at fault. Is he to blame for this? No, not to blame (because he is wired this way), but he is still responsible. Because we are all required by God to be perfect, as Christ is perfect, even though it is impossible to ever reach perfection before Christ returns.

Huh? Exactly. It is a mystery, and I cannot explain it. Biblical counselors and theologians can help make it more clear than I can. But what little I can grasp is a comfort during the times I am scratching my head at the wonder of the autistic brain. It helps me to recognize what I can and do what I can to deal with the difficulties.   In a nutshell . . . .

1. My aspie spouse is selfish and self-centered in not thinking of others or understanding their feelings and perspectives. The fact that he does not see this about himself exhibits a great deal of pride. He should accept this to be true, even without understanding it, and should work on doing all that he can to change his sinful behaviours.

2. My responses to him are, at their root, selfish, self-centered, and a result of pride (thinking I deserve better or that I am better). It is hypocritical to "throw stones" at him when I have the exact same weaknesses (which may simply be displayed differently).

And so daily we should forgive, pray, forbear, and love. Humbling ourselves and looking at our own hearts, we should strive to overcome our faults and grow through the trials of living with and loving difficult people.  Because we are all, every one of us, difficult people to live with.

"When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  John 8:7

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Suffering Spouse and Sanctification

"Our pride must have winter weather to rot it."  Samuel Rutherford, The Loveliness of Christ

Starting a new year in a constant state of suffering is quite sobering.  Is this what the new year holds for me?  Is this what the next decade (or even longer) will hold for me?  Well, maybe.  And maybe that's not tragic.  Seriously.

Reflecting on suffering and happiness and the Christian life leads to a realization that the Christian should expect suffering in this life because the goal of this life is to be made more like Christ.  It is to grow and change and become more like Him.  The goal here is not happiness.  Oftentimes when we are most 'happy' we are not really being challenged to change or grow--we tend to just coast along, forgetting to pray, forgetting to strive for holiness.  But this is not our home.  We are travelers and this human life is temporary--just a breath in the span of eternity.

C.S. Lewis, in "Letters to an American Lady" empathizes with and encourages a female correspondent throughout her daily trials of life.  He constantly directs her thoughts to heaven, reminding her that we shouldn't be so focused on our personal happiness in this life.  What particularly struck me in my reading of this little gem of a book, was Lewis reminding the lady of her choice between Crosses.  The context was choosing to live alone in her old age, or living in an 'old folks home' with a bunch of cantankerous senior citizens.  Both are hard. Lewis says:
"It is (no disguising it) only a choice between Crosses.  The more one can accept that fact, the less one can think about happiness on earth, the less, I believe, one suffers.  Or at any rate the suffering becomes more purgatorial and less infernal."

If you are a Christian and you desire to grow in faith, then you will (must?) suffer.  And that then leads to very, very good things-namely, becoming more like Christ.  It means becoming more kind, more patient, more loving, less selfish, less proud.  During trials and times of suffering, keep in mind that for the Christian, life often involves a choice between Crosses.

I encourage you to reflect on 1 Peter 1-4.  He deals much with suffering.  It is challenging to me to start this new year with a deeper understanding of the purpose of trials in this life.  I want to suffer well, as a Christian should.  I want my suffering to have a good purpose.  I want to honor God in my suffering.

"For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.  For what credit is it if, when you are *beaten for your faults, you take it patiently?  But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness-by whose stripes you were healed.  For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." 1 Peter 2: 19-25

*beaten is referring to slaves during those times--no woman should stay in a physically abusive relationship!  But think of this challenge--to suffer patiently (and remember that our suffering is much less that those in this context) without reviling our aspies when they hurt our feelings.  Rather we should be loving them with much patience.  Then we will be honoring God in our suffering.

NT/AS Clue: "What's Wrong?!"

NT/AS Clue:  The Aspie should not ask "what's wrong?"  The Aspie should instead ask "what can I do to help?"  The NT should not respond to "what's wrong" with an explanation of her emotional state.  The NT should respond to "what's wrong" with a clear-cut statement of something practical the aspie could do to help her feel better.

It took me YEARS to understand this NT/AS rule.  Countless times when I have been upset, my aspie spouse has asked (ahem, demanded) that I respond to "What's wrong?"  Idiotic me (ok, neuro-typically wired me) would always go into a long explanation of my emotional problems/feelings at the time.  BIG MISTAKE.  Always ended in tears (for me) because he never responded appropriately.  Now, of course, I understand that he truly didn't ever intend to be mean.  Now I know that when he asks "what's wrong", what he means is "what can I do to help?"

And that's all he means.  He doesn't have any interest in, and doesn't know what to "do" with, emotional monologue.  He does, however, want to help.  And so I can help him better help me by dropping the emotional stuff and respond with the likes of:

"I'm tired, can you watch the kids?" or "I'm stressed, can you massage my neck?" or "I just need a hug" or "Will you please bring me a drink?"

And it would really help the NT (who when she is emotional, and tired, and stressed, can't think well in aspie language anyway), if the Aspie would change his language and use the words "What can I do to help?" rather than saying "What's wrong?"

NOTE TO ASPIES:  When you ask "what's wrong?" you are really asking for it . . . NT style!  Thank you for wanting to help.  But please, please use the words "What can I do to help you right now?"  It'll make things so much clearer and so much easier.  For everyone.