“But God chose the simple things of the world to confound the wise. God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” – 1 Corinthians 1:27
Today is Luke’s two-year “autism-versary” and I have found myself reflecting a lot on where our family has been, where we’re going, and how far we’ve come. Luke has learned a lot, but he hasn’t changed that much. Not really. It’s me who’s changed.
When Luke was first diagnosed I thought about autism every waking moment. I wondered if it would ever be different. Would there ever come a time that autism was just an occasional thought or a distant memory? If such a day is coming, it’s not here yet. There is still not a minute that goes by that I don’t think about autism, but how I think about autism has changed. How I see Luke has changed.
Before I had a uniquely designed child, I probably felt the way most people feel around people with differences – uncomfortable. I thought I was being polite by looking away and not drawing attention to their disability. I felt pity for those with special needs – sorry for the things they would never accomplish. I rarely gave a second thought to their parents, trying to come to grips with the whisperings of an uncertain future. Certainly that parent was over it by now, I assumed. For all the compassion I felt, I never allowed it to stir me to acts of practical love and kindness.
There’s no room for this type of detached attitude when it’s your own child. In the past two years, not for one moment have uniquely designed people made me uncomfortable. In fact, I cherish their company. I realized that looking away only makes people feel invisible. I learned that those with differences don’t need pity. They need people to believe in their abilities and celebrate their achievements. I figured out that parents are never totally over it, but that when others make the effort to reach out to them and especially to their child, it gives a hope and a joy that little else can match.
I coined the term “uniquely designed” because I wanted to emphasize that Luke’s differences were not the result of a genetic mutation or error, but rather, the perfect plan of a loving and wise Creator. Uniquely designed people are commonly referred to as having “special needs” but I often think it would be more correct to say that they have “special gifts.”
Not often, but every now and then, I get a heavenly glimpse of Luke. It’s as if a flash comes over him and for a moment I see him as he truly is – not with the imperfect vision of my human eyes – but as God sees him. This aura of light surrounds him and I know that I’ve been gifted with one of God’s most glorious creations – a child less touched by the bonds of this world. In that moment, I wonder why anyone would consider having a uniquely designed child to be anything other than a profound blessing – a sign of favor with God. In that moment, I can’t see Luke as having a disability at all.
Luke has the power to reveal a person’s truest self. It’s fascinating to see others react to him. He brings out the best and the worst in humanity, from the rudest remarks to the most genuine acts of love and selflessness. No one can remain neutral in his presence.
Luke always treats others with kindness and respect. I have never seen Luke act aggressively toward anyone – including his little sister. Luke is the most obedient four-year-old I know. He always does as he is asked. Luke has no ulterior motives. He isn’t concerned with how he might use others to get ahead, or befriending someone for what they might offer him in return.
Luke isn’t interested in people-pleasing. He is never self-conscious. His pride never compels him to become concerned with keeping up appearances. He is totally real. His is completely confident in who God has made him to be.
Many children with autism never lie or use sarcasm, because their minds only deal with what is true and concrete. In Luke’s case, his lack of speech means that he has never used his words to hurt or tear others down. It is ironic to think that if Luke had the ability to be dishonest, sarcastic, disobedient or prideful, it would be a sign of “progress” from a developmental standpoint.
At times I have imagined that in Heaven, Luke will be more like rest of us, but perhaps the opposite is true. Maybe in Heaven, we will all be a little more autistic.