It’s May! Not quite sure how it’s happened but all of a sudden here we are! Our bank holiday weekend was bustling with games, family and food. A really precious time together a chance to think, take stock, laugh, share, and – on this occasion – dodge the rain showers.
After a long weekend going back to school, and groups yesterday felt like another mini fresh start with all that brings… the excitement mingled with dread and anxiety over the transition from one thing to the next, and the tiredness that brings with it. No-one wanted to get up this morning!
But as I have got back from school drop off, the sky is blue, and the sun is shining, washing has been hung on the line and the dishwasher is on again… and so I am immersed in things that speak to me of newness and fresh starts, of being cleaned ready for another new beginning.
As I hung out the washing I was thinking about how many new starts there are in a life of faith; our following Jesus is an adventure marked by stepping out and stepping up; punctuated with steps forward and 10 steps back – and then the picking up, dusting down and taking another step forward as if for the first time with Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit is a work of ‘being made new’, ‘from glory to glory’, a ‘now & still more to come’kind of work within and through us.
Truth is though, transitions aren’t the easiest things in the world to navigate with ASD! Which is tough, because there are so many, and the pace of them is relentless… and it seems there are going to be just as many in a life of faith, as we grow into the likeness of Jesus. There is the difficulty of things left behind in order to embrace what we have grown into (even clothes that don’t fit at all are a struggle to part with in exchange for the new, and new clothes take a lot (months sometimes) of adjusting to before they become part of life). I see a similar difficulty in our growth in faith, letting go of old ways of thinking that don’t fit us and exchanging them for God’s perspective – the perfect fit; or like habits, from character defining ones, to the mundane like moving onto the next age group of Bible notes! These moments of letting go and embracing, natural to growing in faith, are tricky.
There’s also the fear that comes with transitions, with a difficulty visualizing and anticipating what ‘could’ be, anything new is very starkly an unknown even when it builds on a pattern or an experience that has come before. In day to day life we try to support this fear, perhaps through the use of social stories to map out with our girls what this new thing or new way of doing things will look and feel like, how they will be able to interact within this new setting or situation, what they might say, what they might feel. Sometimes simply with visual prompts that break down the transition into smaller more manageable steps, this can work is there are small changes to something familiar. The best way is when we do it together, so we are there to provide the continuity needed to face the fears; so that we are able to whisper encouragements and explanations, able to remind and prompt; so that we are on hand to notice when it’s becoming overwhelming and there needs to be a rest & some space. Of course we’d love it if this could be the support we could offer for every transition… but of course it’s not always possible (and also of course we want our kids to gain more independent skills to cope with transitions for the times we can’t hand hold so sometimes we do step back and hover).
But it occurs to me that in our growing in faith, in all the transitions that this will mean, we have a promise of this kind of support – without limitations!
Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he’ll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he’ll keep your teacher alive and present among you. Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: “This is the right road. Walk down this road.” (Isaiah 30:21 MSG)
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Mt 28, 19-20 MSG)
But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you. (Jn 14:26 AMP)
We were dipping into ‘The servant Queen and the King she serves’ and talking about how we might share this story of the Queen’s faith with our friends and neighbours over the weekend. My sister read out this wonderful quote which she had slipped to her Dad, King George VI as he went to speak to the nation:
Minnie Haskins’ poem “The Gate of the Year” (1908) :
I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’
It is this that I need to show and model to my children, the truth and certainty of the Good Shepherd knowing the best pastures and the places of rest; the Light of the World for whom night and day are just the same; the Way the Truth and the Life the one who by the way he lived and loved, died and rose again is himself the ultimate social story; the ever present comforter who continues to lovingly pick us up and dust us down and set our feet on the right path and whisper the words we need – and the courageous trust we can put in God for every transition, for all our growth, for every challenge.