Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What are we working for?

Today Children of Destiny's Turning the Tide calendar prompts us to pray for Teacher, Aides and Therapists (we've known a few) with this verse:

But as for you, be strong do not give up, for your work will be rewarded. 2 Chronicles 15:7

work for... reward.... Those are loaded words at my house!

Trained as we are in the ways of the autism world, I can't read them without picturing a PECS chart of possible motivators. "What will we work for today, Reid?" A video, piece of gum, or student choice....

From a tender age the premise can be established: tit for tat. You do what I want then, I'll give you what you want. It can quickly become a way of life.

After pooping on the seat or emptying the silverware, Reid's been known to shout, "That deserves a movie payoff!" And so his artful negotiation developed. Here's how ridiculous it can seem:

"You want me to do what? Three chores in a row? Compost, garbage cans, and silverware? What's it worth to you? Can we go to Target?

From the earliest days of our journey, this thinking smacked of no good to me. Oh! not that it doesn't work. It the short term. Yet, isn't there more to parenting than compliance? Don't we want children for more than transactional accomplishments? Where is the love?

Given the choices we had (and have) as consumers in the autism market (which is a growth industry), I searched for what would be the right choice. Applied Behavioral Analysis or Floortime seemed the prevailing options at that time. The Bible doesn't give specific direction about autism intervention and the myriad of therapy choices, anymore than it does about spanking, but seeking the Holy Spirit, we have to glean what we can from related verses. And consider the character of God.

He didn't create people just to get the garden of Eden weeded. He wanted company walking in the cool of the day!

Early on in our journey, we visited Dr. Serena Weider in DC and pursued Floortime with a vengeance. This antithesis to ABA was revolutionary at the time. School districts wouldn't, claim they couldn't, do it. Therapists would only do it in a hybrid approach along with the more scientifically proven behavioral theory. To me, it answered the cliche WWJD question? If He were the parent of a kid with autism, what would Jesus do? Floortime is a vivid picture of what Jesus did (and does) with each of us.

He got down on our level, became flesh no less, to engage with us, entering into our humdrum lives even following our lead as Floortime instructs. He meets us at the well drawing water, or in the leper colony where we're stuck, or at the tax collecting table where we work...spinning tops or flipping lightswitches back and forth ad nauseum. Whatever holds our interest, he starts there and patiently uses it as a means to relationship with Him.

I can only think of one chart in Scripture: those Big 10 ground rules on the stone tablets. And when we broke them to shreds. He rewrote them knowing we couldn't keep them to the letter, anyway. He'd have to send His only Son, the only one who could. Yet he wouldn't send him to show off and go home with all the stickers. He sent Him as a servant to get down in the mud with us. It's by sticking with him, abiding in relationship that we learn how to really live. You see, He is the reward!

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. ” Genesis 15:1-3

Surely God in heaven wants to give us the reward of being with Him for eternity. He doesn't force, bribe or coerce us into choosing it though. He gives us free will to worship Him, lift our eyes to His gaze, enjoy His presence. Like the most compelling Floortime player you could imagine, Jesus lovingly persists and hounds us and keep things just beyond our grasp in hopes that we will want to engage intimately with Him. It's why He created us in the first place.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:5-7

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