Jackson woke up this morning at 6 with a drum solo. It was pretty awesome. He started by beating his hands on the sliding glass door, waking his sisters from their living room slumber party. I smiled. He really does have great rhythm. Then he turned the microwave into a bass drum. I got up.
I took his hand and led him to the conga drum next to the TV and said “Dude, this is a drum. Play this.”
He scrunched up his nose and smiled. Then, he played a masterful hand-drum concerto. It lasted for five seconds. (The glass door is so much more interesting…)
That’s my boy. He is incurably cheerful, and he bleeds Red Bull. I am crazy about him.
And yet I still pray for his healing. Is there a contradiction here? I don’t think so.
Let me explain. When my younger son was born with a heart defect, my prayer wasn’t complicated. It was a straightforward request. “God, please heal my boy.” But with Jackson, I wasn’t sure how “God, please heal my boy” and “I love him just like he is” worked together. Or if they could. Because if God healed him (and I believe He does heal people sometimes), my son would “change.”
So, is asking for Divine intervention a signal that I don’t really love my son the way He is?
Some think so. Many see autism as a blessing in itself. An integral piece of a person’s being. Therefore, treatment, therapy, and prayer for healing can all be forms of rejection. I really appreciate some of what I see in this idea. Here, at least, is a philosophy that seeks to embrace a person no matter what, and to have a good attitude in the process.
But my son is valuable because he exists, not because he sees the world in pictures as opposed to words. He will always see the world in a different way: his own way. Indeed, every one of us will, whether or not we are on the Autism spectrum.
Remember when our friends wrote “Don’t ever change. EVER!” on yearbook day? Well, I totally let my friends down. Because I did change. I learned new skills. I found new friends. I met a girl and fell in love. I developed a deep affection for indie folk and guacamole.
But that’s not all. My personality changed too. I became more introverted. Less opinionated. More thoughtful and less talkative.
Change is a part of our existence. Every day, my kids change, too. They make choices. They act and react. They learn and unlearn. They grow up, and sometimes show immaturity. I love to watch this process. Every time I think I have them pegged, they surprise me. But I never stop loving them when they change. Honestly, I wouldn’t know how to do that!
While we all change and grow, our worth does not. God Himself wrote it nto the fiber of our spirits. Nothing can alter it. Even more to the point: nothing can separate us from unconditional love.
The apostle Paul said it this way: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)
Translation: “I know God made up His mind to love me and nothing’s ever gonna change that. Nothing!”
Do I love as perfectly as God does? No. But I aspire to that. And I have made a decision of my own to love Jackson no matter what. To accept him and pray for him. To enjoy his energetic mornings, and to hold him tight when he freaks out about his beloved wetsuit. But one thing I won’t do: I won’t pin all my decisions about his treatment to sentiments about “who he is.” Rather, I will pursue options that I believe will give him the best possible future.
ABA therapy? Sure.
Biomedical treatments? Some, yes.
Lots of prayer? Dude!
I pray because I want my son to experience the joy of life’s magnificent changes. I want him to have every opportunity to learn and explore and fall in love and have children… to drink in life to the fullest. Until that happens, I will revel in his percussion skills and his squinty smile.
I am aware that many autism parents have passionate opinions on this topic. If you want to display that passion in the comments, have at it. But please, no matter what your personal views, show respect to others. Rude comments will be deleted.
If you enjoyed this, check out these other posts related to autism:
Why No, My Son is Not Rain Man
Fighting Autism with Lame Theology