Jonathan Takes Lead

“It’s not fair.” Jonathan says this a lot these days. He has watched his siblings grow up, learn to drive, get their first cars, go off to college, get married, and determine the courses of their lives while he experiences stricter boundaries. We take pains to allow Jonathan to do what he can. But some things he cannot do. He can drive the lawn tractor and the ATV’s, but he can’t drive a car, at least not on the road. (Although his older brother did let him drive on the road a few years ago—an experience Jonathan never lets us forget.) He can’t go away to college, yet he did get to go away to a special residential school for a few years—and we refer to that as his college experience. He probably will never marry. And what is most difficult for him is that he seems to have so little say about the course of his life.

We try to let him make choices when he can—what he wears, how he spends his day (for the most part), what activities he wants to participate in. We even let him hold his own monthly services in our barn where he claims Senior Pastor as his title. But he can’t rewire the barn, or buy scoreboards, or put up signs at will, which are all things he would like very much to do. Nor can he be on the nightly news (although he has managed to do this four or five times now) or invite police and firemen to our home, or send letters to public officials containing our bills, insurance cards, and other personal information. He also can’t drive across the country to comfort victims of shootings or disasters. (He has tried to get someone to drive him to Newtown, Connecticut, so he can comfort and help those involved in the Sandy Hook Shooting that took place a few years ago.) A noble desire, yes; realistic, no. But these are the kinds of things Jonathan wants to do.

His least favorite word is “no.” He longs to hear more “yeses” in his life. And try as we might, we never seem to produce enough of them.

One day last summer, he brought me a note that said: “not fun special need—–upset me.”

He knows . . . and to him “it’s not fair.”

Something else he finds “not fair” is that he rarely gets to lead. As I said, he lays claim to the title of “Senior Pastor” at his barn church meetings. He even signs his name, Senior Pastor Jonathan. Perhaps he wants to be more like his dad. But I also think he wants to lead.

All limitations change, however, when we hike. When we are out on the trail, Jonathan gets to be in charge. So, as we begin our journey, he takes lead. He simply moves out front, and I let him. If I inadvertently get ahead of him, he gently takes my arm to get my attention, points to himself and says, “Leader.” Then I step aside, and as I do, I feel a sense of pride. This is Jonathan, full of purpose and dignity, being who he wants to be. I am discovering that he is capable of leading and that I actually enjoy following him.


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