Balancing Act

A friend who is an ordained minister shared this intriguing article, in which a pastor wonders about how to baptize an autistic teenager,

“…one of the requirements we have at our church is that everyone who is being baptized will give a short verbal confession of faith in the baptistry as to his or her faith in Christ and salvation experience. But here’s my problem: We have a severely autistic teenager in our congregation who isn’t comfortable talking very much at all and is certainly not comfortable talking to people who are not his parents. He communicates mostly with his parents via iPad. And so how do we interview him for baptism?”

The theological question parallels a very human question asked by caregivers: how do I balance my acceptance of someone who is “different” with expectations that he/she learn and practice typical behaviors?

wallenda-walk-over-the-fallsIn Christian thinking, the baptism balancing act is always “How much do we rely on the grace of God, giving someone eternal life as a gift, and how much on the response of that person, showing that God’s gift has been received?”  As you can imagine, that’s been worth centuries of controversy.  It is behind the differences between churches that will and won’t baptize infants, for example.

Same goes for care giving.  To what extent is a “good job” identified by a loving, supportive environment, or by results in terms of a life showing “normal” skills and achievements?  What’s the balance?  

In our case, our best results have been over on the love and acceptance side.  Even medical professionals have praised us for that contribution to Joey’s life.  But he’s definitely lagging in life skills.  Some of that is autism; but it is compounded by a very human stubborn streak and dislike for “work” (which Joey seems to define as any task involving more than two steps or about ten seconds.)

Balance is, of course, about giving some weight to both sides of an issue.  It means that the reality includes both.  But balance is always a state of tension, not perfection.  Which to my mind adds just a bit more weight to the need for qualities like acceptance, grace and love.

3 thoughts on “Balancing Act

  1. I have a similar dilemma with my husband. When do I push him to do more for himself, and when do I give in and allow him to be dependent and fearful? I, too, have ‘erred’ on the side of acceptance, grace and love. He was determined not to improve, and I became convinced that peace in my home was more important than forcing him beyond what he was willing to do. I know some have questioned that decision. I did what I had to do.

    • Thank you for sharing that. We can encourage, beg, push or whatever. But at the end of the day those in our care do have choices to make. Allowing for that is part of respecting their human dignity, even if outcomes are less than we hope.

      Caregivers are not professionals, experts or bosses – although I’ve seen your profile and know you have some skills in the field! We are first and foremost “loved ones.” Part of what makes care giving stinky is the high expectation placed on day to day people who have to function as staff, advocates, therapists and all the other stuff.

      I’m glad that you dealt with being questioned and stuck with your decision. There are days where I could use a transfusion of that!

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