Autistic Faith

Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness . . . . Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

God told Hosea to marry, to put it bluntly, a prostitute. The point of this: God’s people had prostituted themselves spiritually. I have a new take on this … a gentler approach, and one that may help us understand better the Apostle Peter!

Friday night here in Phoenix we had the Rock & Worship Roadshow, and what an amazing show it was! Tenth Avenue North sang their song “By Your Side” during this show. Something struck me when they sang this verse:

And please don’t fight
These hands that are holding you.
My hands are holding you.

I work with low-functioning autistic children who are in the first through fifth grades. It is not an easy job, to say the least. These children struggle with understanding basic necessities of life and learning. It can be such a joy watching them suddenly grasp how to say a word, count out loud, use the toilet by themselves, or even just point at a picture. When they achieve these, I and the other teachers cannot help but hold them close in a big hug and say “Good job! I am so proud of you!” To get to this point, however, there are many struggles for both of us.

Just to get these students to learn something takes great patience and repetition. Occasionally, these little ones can pick up a new task in an instant. It also can take several minutes or several months to get them to learn something as simple as pointing to a picture to saying “I want …” to walking without holding our hand. Even after they learn something, they can easily forget until we remind them. They can get distracted by toys and food quicker than we can blink!

Much of the time they do not want to learn something new, even if it is for their benefit. These young ones can scream and cry, kick and hit, scratch and pinch, flail around, and bite … us, other students, and even themselves. When this happens, we have to step in and try to calm them down through speaking softly, occasionally speaking very firmly, holding on to them (through holding hands or holding their arms), and, when it is really bad, putting them in a hold. A hold means restraining their arms, and sometimes their legs, until they can relax and listen once again. Many times they fight this hold with every bit of strength they have.

This past Friday was one of those days that I had to help with every one of these with various students. I just wanted to say to these kiddos, “Just relax! I love you and want to help you! Please, listen and sit still! It will be okay!”

The thing that struck me at the concert when listening to Tenth Avenue North was this:

We Christians sure can act like autistic children.

God comes to us when we have no understanding of His ways and His love. He gently moves us toward being like His Son, and sometimes we get it right away. The vast majority of the time, we kick and scream; we flail around like we are being forced to eat dung; and we lash out at our Teacher and each other. We easily get distracted by toys and food … and each other. It takes us a lifetime to grasp the simple teachings of loving God and loving others.

Yet, God patiently works with us, every moment of every day. Sometimes He coaxes us, other times He holds us until we listen, again.

Am I saying God sent autism into the world to teach us to love Him more? Not at all. Like all things, He has redeemed this aspect of our fallen world to display His glory and love.

Just as with Hosea and Gomer, God takes a situation that looks miserable and makes it something glorious. I never imagined I would work with autistic children. Now that I am, I would never want to give up the chance. It does not mean I will not change careers in the future, but as hard as it is working with these very special children I have rarely been so fulfilled and blessed.

The message for the rest of us: Let the Healer and Teacher mold us. It is not comfortable being put in a hold (being disciplined), but it is so glorious when we finally “get it” and He simply holds us as He says “Good job! I am so proud of you!

  1. March 1st, 2012

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