The Full Spectrum: Is God Punishing Me?

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The Full Spectrum focuses on the trials and tribulations of raising a child who ranks on the autism spectrum.

Like many of today’s cynical and urban liberals, I am strongly agnostic and can’t say one way or another if god exists. Technically I’m Jewish, but it’s more of a cultural affiliation than a religious belief. Either way, I’ve never been too conflicted about being agnostic: I know right from wrong and I manage to live a rich and meaningful life.

Lately, however, I’ve been wondering if “god” is punishing me.

I have a close friend at work, a practicing Catholic who believes in god, attends church and has had her daughter baptized and confirmed. She lives quietly by her religious morals and, just like me, is modern and liberal. Unlike me, she avoids cursing, never tells a lie and says little prayers to god when we’re on a turbulent plane ride for work (this has happened more than once!).

While I often playfully poke fun at my friend for her adherence to the catholic rules because it’s more traditional than what I’m used to, I can’t help but wonder if all of my past “ungodly” behaviors have caused some of the challenges my family is facing today – particularly my oldest son S.’s diagnosis of Aspergers. While I wasn’t Satan’s spawn growing up, I definitely participated in many of the cardinal sins. What if this is why I have a child with neurological disorders?

My friend has a nearly perfect child. Her daughter is smart, kind and easygoing with lots of friends and many interests. She listens to her parents and rarely, if ever, gives them a hard time. I love my boys dearly but they are wild and unruly – and I’m in constant negotiation to get them to do anything I ask. And so I wonder: is this a sign? Or have I finally gone over the deep-end?

Recent studies show that autism may be linked more to environment than to genetics. This research should have finally put my “punishment” theory to rest but somehow the nagging feeling that I can’t know for certain still lives on. Likely I just want someone to point a finger at, something that explains why it is my child who’s faced with these challenges and not someone else’s.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my life and family and S. enriches ours in so many ways. He’s incredibly smart, funny and, most of the time, he’s a loving brother, too. He’s only eight years old and yet he’s designing websites and writing creative articles for the school newspaper! And he’s constantly teaching us about patience and acceptance. So while I sometimes wonder if there’s a “reason” why S. is my child or if it’s just the randomness of the universe, lately I’ve been thinking it might be better to play it safe and mix a bit of belief into my cynical views. Maybe even say a prayer or two. It can’t hurt, can it?

(Photo: Pixland)