At first, they responded to our son's diagnosis with what seemed to be almost pity. Then that pity turned into “We will do our research.” Eventually, though, the newness of the diagnosis wore off, and suddenly, he was labeled as “spoiled.” The deliberate denial by those we loved that our son had any condition at all was the hardest pill to swallow following our son's diagnosis. As the advocates for our child, it reached a point where we needed to establish boundaries and take a break. I couldn’t help what people concluded about my son, but I could help what I allowed him to be exposed to. Boundaries are essential for both mental health and in fostering the truth.
I’ve often found that many believe that establishing boundaries is not conducive to the sacrificial love that we are called to in the Christian community. “Turn the other cheek,” right? I dealt with this “Catholic guilt” so often after being brought up to believe that even yawning in church was reason for a stern look and long-winded lecture after mass. But after lots of therapy and prayer, my heart has been remodeled. I understand now that God never condones His children to be abused. Would you for your own children? There is a huge difference between abuse and putting up with unpleasant interactions. We should never feel guilty for establishing boundaries because of abuse. Sometimes, the best thing we
can do for a soul is to depart from someone for a time and pray from a distance.
Even Jesus did this. Many times in the bible, He left everyone to pray. These fences we build allow us to refocus and better connect with the source of our life. Think of it as a tree; if you plant a tree, you want it to be surrounded by fertile soil, good sunlight, and a water source so that it will grow and bring forth fruit. How is this possible if the tree is constantly dug up, poked, prodded, overcrowded by other plants, and neglected in the name of “sacrifice”? Jesus wants us to be fruitful trees of truth so that when others glance at us, they see Him and are inspired. Protecting and building boundaries around my environment enables me to be like that fruitful tree, rooted in the truth and able to listen to His Voice more clearly.
The seven months we took apart from these individuals proved to be fruitful in so many ways. I was able to gain mental strength, shift through the damage they had done, and build secure fences around my heart. We no longer discuss personal matters. We visit and smile, but the relationship has started over in a different place mentally. I pray for them often, but I've placed the situation in God’s Hands.
These things remain true: I am a special needs parent. My son has autism. Anything out of that realm of truth is not going to be fruitful in our daily life. We need to evaluate how much we allow someone who abuses that truth because of their own denial to be in our lives. We can’t change people, but we can control how much those people have a hold on our well-being and the well-being of our children. As Christians, we are not called to be doormats. We are called to be fruitful trees of life, illuminating truth and love to others.
A native of Cajun South Louisiana, Rachel is a wife and stay-at-home autism mom with four kiddos living in Allen, TX. You can find her on Instagram @rayrayfuss.