Thank You God for Autistm—

The police came again. My husband got to share with them about our son, John, who lives with autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Tourette syndrome. John loves to walk and pace on our neighborhood street these days. This past week I came out into our front yard to search for our John and found my 6-foot son walking down our neighborhood street shirtless, with his head turned upward towards the sky, marching in the middle of the road. He was so free and so focused. John’s freedom at this moment was confusing and perplexing to some of our neighbors and the police.

While some of our family, some of our friends, and some of our neighbors are used to John and his freedoms, many are not. My husband John’s sister, Ruth, and I are in the position of speaking on behalf of John, educating the public and protecting him. We have this opportunity to be his advocates. We get to learn more about advocacy and see that Jesus is the most beautiful Advocate. There is a beauty in allowing the development of our character in Christ through advocating for another. Why does God allow this? Why does God allow disability in our world? Why does God allow churches to have families impacted by autism enter their doors?

It was Sunday morning—prayer time in our church’s worship service. During this time in our service, anyone in our church is welcome to pray out loud. Our son John loves this part of the worship service. He loves to pray out loud. John prayer thanking God for one of our church members’ new teeth. (One of our friends at church had gone through a lot to get new teeth. It was quite a process for them and so intriguing for John to see these changes take place.) People in our church family have shared with me how impacted they have been when John prays.

I have been impacted by our church family’s response to John seeing him as an image-bearer of Christ. It’s as if seeing 1 Thessalonians 5:11 come to life: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” On another Sunday morning, John responded to a rhetorical question given by our pastor during the sermon “Thanks, John,” our pastor sweetly replied. A woman shared she joined our church because of the love and acceptance the church had for John.

Perhaps autism and disabilities are the platforms on which God allows the gospel to go forth. There is something attractive about a person living with special needs; and we look and listen….we and pay attention. There is something fascinating about them and how they too are made in the image of God. And, we watch, listen, and wonder at those surrounding this person impacted by disability and see how they love. Maybe we see that “city on a hill” (Matt. 5:14-16 ESV) where the church is so loving that others want to be a part of it. Then, church becomes irresistible. The seeker wonders, “Could I be loved like this? Does Jesus love like this?”

Do you think that God allows people living with autism in our lives, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our churches maybe because He cares for us? How incredible that we have a God who is the perfect Parent who gives us so much, loves us so deeply, loves our learning and loves watching us grow. Some of my friends living with autism have helped me know God better, more intimately. There is a genuineness with autism that I crave in my own life. There is a pattern of thinking that intrigues me and helps me see things differently. There are things that bring me to my knees, more desperate for Jesus, more in love with Jesus, because of the impact of friends living with special needs. His allowing of autism in my son’s life has been a gift to me. Getting to worship in church with friends impacted by autism and other diagnoses is an opportunity for a party.

Jesus explained it well in Luke 14. “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame…Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (vv. 21b and 23). I love that there are so many ways to see this verse. A wedding banquet is a party. This particular banquet to which our Master is inviting us is into…the kingdom of heaven—the getting-to-be-with-Jesus-and-follow- Him-forever party we don’t want to miss. I love how, while we are the ones who are poor, crippled, blind and lame spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically, we are invited to this party, and His house is not full without us. I am broken and in need of Jesus. I don’t want to miss out on this party. Perhaps autism is allowed to help us engage in the party. Autism can be defined in many ways by many people. Perhaps autism is a unique opportunity inviting us to see, hear, and know more.

  •  Unique
  • opporTunity
  •    Inviting us too
  •   See, hear, and know
  •   More

One thing we know for sure is that God allows it. Perhaps autism in one’s life allows us to pause. Maybe we pause —to think about how to interact, how to connect, how to come alongside, how to teach, how to disciple, how to modify curriculum, how to encourage, and how to love well. I am reminded of our Jesus, our sweet Savior who paused many a time for people. I love how it’s okay to have things in our lives that make us pause and remember Him. Thank you, church ministry servers and leaders impacted by autism, perhaps even living with autism, for gifting us with your pauses, your time and your talents and your care.

Michelle Hilton lives in Indian Trail,  NC and feels blessed to serve her church family at Church of the Redeemer.  She has worked in children’s ministry for her church for 10 years assisting the children’s ministry director and serving as coordinator for “In His Image”, a ministry to individuals and families touched by disability.