A few years ago, I began writing about life with autism. More than anything, this was a way for me to process our struggles and our victories in a positive way. What I didn’t know at the time was that my thoughts were going to be therapeutic not only for readers who are affected by a disability personally or in their immediate families, but for anyone who ever felt marginalized or disabled themselves.
Writing helps me think about the broken parts of, not only my experience, but also what I’ve found to be the human condition.
I’m a person who has experienced the pain of this world in the form of physical illness, depression, the chronic illness of a parent, infertility, financial crisis, divorce and the responsibilities of parenting a child with special needs. Each of these sufferings and struggles has been a piece of sharp glass in a kaleidoscope that, when held up to light can cast beautiful images only broken pieces can. (Analogy borrowed from When God Shines Through by Claire Cloniger; Word Publishing)
When I think about the issues with which I wrestle, the struggles we all face, I begin to try and turn the end of that kaleidoscope so that I can find something beautiful in it. I think it is my faith in a God who is active in this world that makes me hold everything up to the light. If he is truly active and alive and sending us in mission to a broken and hurting world, then surely our personal pain and the pain of the world is a place where we can meet on common ground. That’s what I see Jesus doing over and over again in The Gospels. He never seemed to waste an opportunity to meet someone’s pain. I want to believe he doesn’t waste our pain either, but redeems it. The words of this poem reminds me of how I try to redeem the pain.
And truly, I reiterate, . . nothing’s small! No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And, glancing on my own thin, veined wrist,
In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.
Bk. VII, l. 812-826 – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Whereas some just see that “common bush” in their pain and circumstance, I look for the piece of heaven inside the struggle. It’s been suggested that I serve as a kind of “translator” for pain and struggle, misfortune and grief, disease and hardship.
I’m no sage of wisdom. Our family motto is to handle all hardship with equal parts prayer and humor. Sometimes this makes me appear callous or trite. As I’ve been told recently “there is no one like you.” Part of my own struggle is in this uniqueness. I wish I had a more orthodox approach to everything, but I see life through the kaleidoscope of autism, infertility, heart disease and struggle. Instead of building a fence around the bush I know to be “afire” to keep other people away from the fire, (or worse – putting out the fire to keep others from seeing it) I choose to take off my shoes and find the holiness in each flame.
What Can I Do?
I can’t spiritualize everyone’s struggle, but I can show people how I believe God has shown himself in my own. I can take this unique perspective and try and translate it to the world. I think the world might need an approach that sees God in their story, so they can see themselves in His.
So I write and speak about the broken pieces. Then I tell people that the light of God has made those broken pieces into beautiful images that could only be revealed through the brokenness. I know the Bible well enough to name countless story after story of people with whom God operated in the same way. I can take our stories and show how God is woven within them because we are, after all, the continuation of His story. I can’t “make it all make sense.” I can’t even begin to explain the “whys” of suffering. But I seek to find the holy in it.
So take off your shoes and lets warm ourselves by that fire. Maybe we’ll even stop to roast a marshmallow or two.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 
 The Holy Bible : Today’s New International Version. 2005 (2 Co 1:3–4). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.