NOTE: This is part TWO in a 2 week series. For part ONE of Austin and Jennifer’s #IKnowHim story click here.
I knew almost from the moment everything came to light about what had happened to Austin (which was about 11:00 at night at Cook Children’s Hospital when we got a phone call after a police interrogation that Kara (the babysitter) had admitted to shaking him and throwing him onto the couch) that I would have to forgive her for this. Matthew 6:14-15. I knew it would be hard and I didn’t know how I was going to get passed this enough to do that. Several months after he was shaken I heard a sermon about Corrie ten Boom, the Jew that lived through concentration camp and after enduring countless horrors at the hands of the Germans, she spoke at an event where one of the German guards that had been there was listening. Her words touched him, and though he didn’t recognize her (clothed, clean, and equal) she recognized him. He had been a guard in the same camp she was in, and had probably offered her countless memories of suffering. He told her how her speech had moved him and reached out his hand to shake hers. In that moment she prayed to God asking for his mercy and forgiveness to come into her, because she could not produce it herself. God answered that prayer and she was able to reach out and shake the German’s hand. So every day for the next year, I prayed the same thing, knowing then that I couldn’t muster the love and mercy that God has with my human ability, that it HAD to come from Him. After that time, I no longer felt bitterness or anger when she came to mind. I didn’t spent much time thinking about her at all. I didn’t spend time in the shower having “conversations” with her in my mind about how she had wrecked our world anymore. Things were starting to normalize a little bit, and I was starting to feel happy more often. From all of this evidence I decided that I had forgiven her. One morning however, God spoke to me and told me I had not. I was offended. I argued with Him, and told him I had and offered up all of my reasoning, but He did not speak again. I spent the rest of that day in prayer and meditating on what else I could possibly do to reach this mysterious destination of “forgiveness finality”, frustrated and confused. Finally He spoke again and told me that I still held myself above her. I felt that she owed me something….everything in fact. I felt that I was better than the likes of her. He gently reminded me of my sin, and though by this world’s standards they are very different, in the kingdom they are not. I was not better than her, and I had no right to consider myself or anyone else to be so. Once I understood I prayed for help to embrace this, and it did not take long, I can pin point that day and the moment when I felt weight come off of my heart. I felt freedom from the whole ordeal and all of the heaviness of it. I can’t possibly describe it accurately to someone who hasn’t experienced such extremes, but I understood how much God wanted me to let go of every single piece of what was done for MY sake and for MY heart. I was still suffering and He didn’t want that. He showed me how to completely let go, and I’m so thankful and in love with Him for it.
So what about Austin? What’s he like now, you may be asking. He has my heart, this kid. We are very blessed to have as much of him as we do, God has been faithful. Let me preface this by saying that Austin’s brain is not even the correct shape of a brain anymore, there is so much damage. It has atrophied so much that there is an inch of space between his brain and his skull, and the plates of his skull have completely overlapped each other as a result (thought you’d never know that because of his amazing hair. This brain injury was no joke, so the abilities he has are nothing short of miraculous.
Austin will be 5 this summer (2016). He can talk (though can be difficult to understand), he can eat, run, jump, express his joy and his discontent in appropriate ways, he has many skills that are very delayed but he is making progress. He’s like a really typical early 3 year old cognitivley. He is full of joy and VERY affectionate. We do not look at him and see lack. We see so many reasons to be thankful. It is not hard to gain perspective over your own situation when you’re thrown into a special needs environment. He does have a lot of tendencies that are similar to autism but I was so worried that I would never know my son when this all happened. Now, I know that I do know him. It’s not in the most conventional way but I see his heart and I know that’s who he always was, even before his injury. I’m so thankful to have him here. All that being said, I’ve also become much more eternally minded. I’m so much more aware that this is all temporary and that Austin will receive ultimate and complete healing some day, and I will be right there for it. I won’t say I am thankful that this happened. It was painful and horrific, and Austin will face difficulties his entire life that never should have been difficult for him at all. But I will say I am thankful for the spiritual growth that both my husband and i have received through it, and for the fact that God took all of it and used it for His kingdom. I’m thankful that NONE of it was wasted. He is good ALL of the time.