Mothering from the brink of despair

February 9, 2015

The flickering candle and the click of my keyboard are the only sounds in the room with me tonight. My heart feels tender and raw, and my eyes burn from the tears they’ve been swimming in over the last few hours.

You see, my husband and I have a precious son with a neurological disorder that causes emotional and behavioral problems. We have good months and bad months, good days and bad days. Today has been a bad day.

Our official diagnosis is ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome, but if you look up “bipolar disorder” or “oppositional defiant disorder” or “borderline personality disorder,” you’ll find many of the same symptoms that live with us inside of our beautiful, nine-year-old child.

The symptoms look so neat and tidy on the healthcare websites, sitting there in those perfectly aligned, bulleted lists. They look benign—like you could just select them and delete them if you so chose—impulsive behavior, persistent dark thoughts, social and communication deficits, extreme emotions, difficulty coping with the demands of everyday life.

The truth is that these little words—these “symptoms”—regularly show up in bodily form and press my face against the laundry room wall. They twist my arm behind my back and force me to my knees when I’m trying to get dinner on the table or help the kids with homework. They keep me from ever getting my balance, strolling by and giving me a shove when I least expect it.

This is my whole family’s normal.

Many days it feels like we’ve set up camp in a landmine field. I’m constantly vigilant, trying to keep the whole world calm and ordered to protect my son and those around him—an impossible task. When one of these emotional mines suddenly detonates, I throw myself on the blast, absorbing as much of it as I can to shield others, especially my other children, from the fallout. I stand guard like this day after day, month after month, year after year. I walk around with my breath slightly held, feeling like we’re always about to cross a busy street.

Sometimes I handle things well; other times I lose my temper and lash back at my son. Those are the darkest days, the weeping days. I’m supposed to be his comfort and help, but this job is so much bigger than me. I run out of energy. I run out of strength. I run out of patience. I come up short again and again and again.

An invisible disability

One of the hardest things about our family’s disability is that you can’t see it; you can only see what spirals out of it.

If my son walked into the room with two broken legs, no one would be angry with him for not being able to walk; they would offer to help him. Our child’s symptoms are visible, but the disability itself is not. His weakness pushes people away when he needs their help most. It’s hard to understand (even for my husband and me) that he needs extra grace and compassion when he’s lashing out in anger. He’s usually melting down because he’s anxious or afraid or overwhelmed.

This beautiful boy is a kind and tender little soul, always willing to share or help or stand up for someone who needs it. He never wants me to kill a spider or throw away a drawing. He’s off-the-charts smart, and he longs to please his father and me. He sees the world in a marvelous and interesting way, noticing details I would always miss. He uses crazy-big words and sees patterns in math that I never would.

That same unique wiring of his brain also makes him quick to spring into a fight; he perceives threats everywhere, even where there are none. And so this sweet little boy can suddenly explode with adrenaline and anger and leave us running for cover in our own home.

The road God has placed us on feels unbearably hard to walk some days.

My heart’s longing is to give you a glimpse into the pain the mother of a child like mine quietly carries around with her. You probably won’t see it. She has to keep functioning, after all. She may have other children to protect and care for. She can’t walk around passing out handfuls of sorrow, so chances are you don’t know how she’s quietly suffering.

God’s Word tells us we are to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” It tells us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

How can you help bear a burden like this one? It’s not as complicated as you might think.

Eyes to see, ears to hear

One of the most vital ways the Lord Jesus shows his love to us is through one another, his very body. We are united to him and to each other by his Spirit, and each of us has something life-giving to share. Life in this world is full of hardship, and we need one another in very real and urgent ways. As I walk through these difficult days and remember that Jesus promised never to leave me or forsake me, I’m grateful that one of the ways He cares for me is through people—messy, imperfect, trying-their-best people, just like me. Sometimes we feel lonely, but in Christ we never stand alone.

Can you relate to my story? Are you struggling to hold on to hope? How has God shown his faithfulness to you?

Jennifer Case Cortez

Jennifer Case Cortez writes about autism, culture, and women’s issues. Her work has been featured in The Devotional Bible for Dads (Zondervan), The Life Promises Bible (Zondervan), The Mom’s Bible: God’s Wisdom for Mothers (Thomas Nelson), and Women on Life: A Call to Love the Unborn, Unloved, & Neglected (Leland Press). Jennifer also partners with Bombay Teen Challenge as a consultant, teacher, … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24