The Word that Changed Our Lives

Autism. The word reverberated off of the pale yellow walls of the pediatrician’s office and settled on my stomach like bad Chinese. I knew Hudson’s development was atypical. I was aware of the impending result of the 23-point questionnaire I had completed because I had marked the wrong answer more times than not.

Deep down, I knew. But nothing could have prepared me to hear that word out loud at that moment and in that room. I hated how much weight the suggestion carried coming out of the mouth of a professional. Her tone was even, cool, and matter-of-fact. I stood across the room in stark contrast—agitated, hot, and emotional.

I somehow managed to hold it together until we made it out to the car. As I secured my beautiful 18 month old son in his car seat, I could feel that dreaded lump begin to form in my throat. At that point, the flood gates opened and unleashed a torrent of tears. I cried all the way home. I cried off and on the rest of that day. I cried myself to sleep that night and many nights after.

On one particular day, as I sat in my self-imposed isolation and darkness mindlessly weeping, I came to the realization that the emotion I was experiencing wasn’t simply sadness. It was grief. But why was I grieving? What was I grieving? The doctor said my son might be autistic. If so, he would struggle in ways that would make life—put simply—very difficult for him. Shedding tears for my son and his plight would’ve been appropriate. But this? It was as if I was experiencing a loss—a death.

I looked down from my place in the recliner to spot my son playing on the floor. He was alive and well. Nothing about him had changed since before the word “autism” was spoken into our lives. Hudson was fine. But my hopes, dreams, and plans for him—for us—were dead. I had built our lives, our future, and the future of our home on the assumption that I would have a typical son. There would be makeshift forts, lightsaber duels, baseball practices, and sleepovers with his little buddies. There would be graduation, maybe college, then a wife and a family.

That small six letter word cast everything I thought would come to be into the darkness of the unknown. I had assumed he would have a circle of friends. Now I wondered if he would ever be able to make just one. Would he ever become independent enough to move out, much less, take on the responsibility of a husband and father? Would he ever say my name? Would he ever verbalize what those bright blue eyes communicated whenever his gaze met mine—I love you? I didn’t know. And it was killing me.

I always believed the mercy of God to be soft and gentle like the salty streams running down my cheeks. But here it felt like a raging sea—waves crashing against all that I thought was certain and an unrelenting current pulling me back toward the Rock of Ages. I had constructed idols out of normalcy, comfort, and the good life according to the world. I had placed my hope and joy in the temporal stuff of this life, as if Eden hadn’t happened. As if our world hadn’t been tainted and broken. God in His infinite mercy abruptly reminded me that only He is truly good and perfect. Always. Constant. Unchanging. Hope and joy found in One like Him is all-satisfying and eternal.

I do not know the purpose of Hudson’s autism. I don’t understand why he must struggle in areas that come easily to his peers. Or why our family must consider and wrestle with things other families will never work through.

I do know that God is good and, by extension, His purposes are good. Because I am finite, my scope of vision is severely limited. I can’t see entirely all the ways in which God, according to His good purposes, is working in and through our daily struggles for our good and His glory. But I do see how every morning brings with it a new set of opportunities to grow in Christlikeness. There is strength to triumph. There is grace for failure. I look back over the past 5 years and I can see God’s hands providing and His arms sustaining. He is good. And I am thankful.

Jesus TOUCHED Him

My last blog post began looking at John 9 and Jesus’ healing of a blind man by the temple gate in Jerusalem. We saw that while the man had been abandoned by his parents and ignored by society, Jesus SAW him. Jesus saw him as a person created in the image of God.

Jesus saw him. But He did more than see him; He TOUCHED him. I love the intimacy of this miracle! Jesus could have said to the man, “Be healed!” and he would have been healed. But that’s not what He did. Jesus knelt down, spat on the ground, and made mud with His saliva. He then took the mud and rubbed it on the man’s eyes. After rubbing the mud on the man’s eyes, Jesus told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man had to be wondering what was going on. But he was desperate. So he did what Jesus said, and he came back seeing.

The ESV says that Jesus anointed the man’s eyes with the mud. This indicates to us that something special was happening. Jesus participated in the man’s healing in a very intimate way.

This is similar to the intimacy seen in the way He created the first man and woman. While God spoke everything else into existence, Adam was formed from the dust of the ground. God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Then Eve was formed from a rib taken from Adam’s side. The intimacy of God’s creation of man serves as a reminder of the value God places on human life.

Now think about this miracle. The Son of God knelt down, made some mud with His spit, rubbed it on the man’s eyes, and he was healed. The value Jesus places on human life is clear. Jesus did these things because He cared for this man as a person created in the image of God. Yes, this man was a person with a disability. But for Jesus, this man’s disability was not his identity. It was HOW he was, but it was not WHO he was.

My point is not to say that you need to go around healing people with disabilities like Jesus did. But just as Jesus’ care and compassion for this man led Him to act on his behalf, our care and compassion for our neighbors with disabilities must lead us to act on their behalf.

It is not enough for us to see the needs around us. It is not enough even for us to feel sympathy for those around us. If we truly care, we will see the needs around us, and we will seek to meet those needs in any way that that we can. As we follow the example of Jesus by caring for His image bearers with disabilities, we also will be bearing His image.

Photo by Doug Maloney on Unsplash

 

Jesus SAW Him

The Bible is full of affirmations of the dignity and worth of every human being. We’re told in the very first chapter of God’s creation of man “in his image.” The Mosaic Code includes many laws intended to ensure that even the downcast are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve as God’s image bearers. Then when we get to Jesus, we discover that He treated every person with whom He interacted as a person created in the image of God.

I have been amazed over the last week as I’ve thought about one particular interaction Jesus had during His ministry on earth. The story is recorded in John 9. I’d encourage you to read it for yourself, but I’ll give you the short version.

There was a man who was blind from birth. He had been abandoned by his parents at some point. He was looked down upon by the people in Jerusalem. And the religious establishment thought that surely either he or his parents had done something awful that had caused his blindness.

So, the man was left to beg by the gate of the temple every day. It was the only means of support that he had. There was no social safety net for people with disabilities like we have in our country today. And no one was stepping up to make sure that his most basic needs were met.

That is until he encountered Jesus. I love verse 1 of John 9. John writes, “As he [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.” Did you notice that? Jesus SAW him.

Imagine being someone who is forced to beg just to have enough money to survive. As he sat by the gate of the temple begging, I’m sure some who walked by turned away and ignored him. I’m sure others walked by on the other side so they wouldn’t feel as guilty for not helping him. But Jesus SAW him.

This is important because so many in the disability community often feel unseen. This includes both physical and mental disabilities. This includes the disabled themselves and their caretakers. Sometimes it’s because they are pushed to the margins of society and we really don’t see them. Sometimes it’s because disability makes us uncomfortable so we stay away. Other times it’s because we just don’t know how to help.

Disabled people are typically not looking for you to fix their situation. They know that you can’t. Most are not looking for you to feel sorry for them. They just want what you want. They want to be valued for who they are. They want to be seen for their strengths rather than their weaknesses. They want you to see them as people and treat them that way. And if they have a need that you can meet, they would typically be extremely grateful for you to step in and meet that need.

That’s exactly what Jesus did for the man in John 9, but we’ll get to that in a future post. For now, ask Jesus to help you see people as Jesus sees them, as people created in the image of God.

Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash

To Our Friends and Family

We are writing to let you know that our oldest son Hudson was recently diagnosed with autism by a developmental pediatrician. We have known that this day was coming for quite a while, but now that the diagnosis is official, we feel it is the right time for us to inform our friends and family. While we would love to be able to have a face to face conversation with each of you, that is simply not possible. We have so many friends from various stages of life with whom we remain connected through social media that we felt it best if we write this letter to inform you all at once.

While some of you reading this may be surprised by this news, it will come as no surprise to those of you who have been around Hudson in recent years. While Hudson continues to make progress, his expressive language remains very delayed. He finds it difficult to interact with his peers in age appropriate ways. And focusing on one task for any length of time is normally a big challenge.

Whatever comes to your mind when you think of autism, please do not project that onto Hudson. It is often said in the autism community that if you have met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. Autism is a spectrum disorder. This means that it does not look the same in every person with autism. The challenges faced by some children with autism are more limiting than the challenges that Hudson faces, and other children with autism are further along developmentally than Hudson is at this time.

Hudson, however, is not primarily defined by his autism. Here’s what we want you to know about Hudson. Hudson is a five-year-old little boy who enjoys life. He likes running and playing. His favorite foods are pizza, donuts, and PB&J sandwiches. Mommy is his favorite, but he’s quite fond of Daddy, Addie, and Amos too. He is blessed to have so many people who love and care for him. And most importantly, he bears the image of the God of the universe by whom he is fearfully and wonderfully made.

We realize that it can be difficult to know how to respond when someone shares news like this with you. We cannot pretend to speak for every parent of a child with a disability, but we can speak for ourselves. Do not say that you are sorry. We are not sorry. We are more blessed than we could have ever imagined. Sure, there are challenges we face because of Hudson’s autism, but every family faces challenges in one way or another. The challenges faced by so many others are far greater.

We do ask that you pray for Hudson and our family. The most important prayer that we pray for Hudson every day is that he would one day repent of his sin and place his faith in Jesus. We long to see his life transformed by the powerful gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Beyond that we pray for his continued growth and development physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. We pray that he will reach his full potential and accomplish everything of which he is capable. Pray for our family as we walk this road together. The blessings far outweigh the challenges, but the challenges are still challenges.

Finally, we want you to know that we are starting a blog. If you’re reading this, you’ve found it! The URL is bearinghisimage.com. Ashley and I will both be writing here. We will share the links on social media, but we encourage you to subscribe to the blog through email as well.

There is no shortage of blogs out there by parents of children with autism, but we hope to make our own contribution by creating a blog that is personal, informative, and theologically rich. As we walk this journey, we will write posts about some of our own experiences. We will pass along information that may be helpful to caregivers of children with autism along with those who want to love and minister to children with autism. We will do it all through the lens of a biblical worldview that seeks to see the goodness and sovereignty of God in everything.

About

Our son Hudson was diagnosed with autism in July 2018 at 5 years old. We started this blog in August 2018 as an outlet for sharing about our journey with autism.

Our hope is to be an encouragement to parents of children with autism and other disabilities. We also hope to be a source of insight and information for those seeking to minister to children with autism and their families.

We do not claim to be experts on autism or disability. Instead, we simply write from our own experience. We also seek to connect the things we write to the Bible’s teaching concerning the image of God and the inherent dignity and worth of every human being.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to interact with us in the comments. We can also be contacted via email using the contact page.

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