Parents of autistic children are always looking for companions on the autism journey. Jason Hague's newly released book Aching Joy: Following God Through the Land of Unanswered Prayer provides that kind of companionship.
Jason writes in a vulnerable, honest way about his struggle to accept his son Jack's autism diagnosis and to form a real connection with Jack. But beyond the specific details of the Hague family's life, the book is really about deeper issues that we can all relate to:
- how to balance hope and realism
- how to accept the what-is without sinking into dull resignation
- how to acknowledge struggle without trying to fix, escape, or seek pity
- how to foster the potential in our children without making their achievements all about us.
For Jason, faith in God is what helps resolve these tensions. However, faith is not presented as a panacea or a source of glib inspirational quotes (Jason specifically mentions the cliche so many of us love to hate: "God never gives you more than you can handle"), but as an anchor in times of real challenge and wrestling.
It's also clear throughout the book that autism is not an enemy. Jason doesn't talk about finding cures or reasons or about "fixing" Jack; rather, he emphasizes over and over the need to connect with autistic people, to participate in how they see the world (something he and his family do consistently, in beautiful and often funny ways), and to foster inclusion and acceptance. I have to say I just LOVED getting to know Jack in these pages. He is such an interesting boy, and I could see so much of Jonathan in him.
Toward the end of the book, Jason says, "My story was a messy one ... [but] if I can help other parents -- especially dads -- identify what they are feeling instead of telling them the way they ought to feel, they might, in the end, be better equipped to love their children the way they ought to. They might, in other words, become better fathers."
I have little doubt that those who read this book will come away with new information, new insights, and a renewed sense of what we all share, regardless of the unique circumstances we face.