I knew, even before we left for church, that it was going to be difficult to stay for the whole service.
A miraculous healing is taking place in our son Joel’s brain, connecting synapses, enabling connections for speech like we’ve never seen before. This young man (33) with autism, who has rarely spoken in more than two or three word sentences, is suddenly able to let us in on some of his thoughts. We are ecstatic, praising God for a healing we’ve been praying for his entire life.
There is only one problem.
There are days that he can’t stop talking. Literally.
How do we pray through this?
Maybe not quite so many connections at one time, God? Um, Lord, do you think you could help him understand we don’t have to hear every single thought? Please, make him stop talking!
One day of the week is the hardest. You guessed it. Sunday.
We have a great church. The congregation is inclusive, understanding, and loving.
But there is no way to sit through a sermon with Joel chattering incessantly. It wouldn’t be so bad if he knew how to whisper, but he doesn’t, so every single thought is spoken aloud. Loud aloud.
Lately, we’ve been leaving church early.
This past Sunday our pastor was out of town. Joel attends a weekly small group with young adults from our college community. Joel’s friend Josh, who leads that group, was giving the sermon.
“That’s my friend Josh!” Joel said as Josh stood up front, adjusting his microphone. Joel’s voice carried across the room. “There’s the microphone. Josh has a microphone! Josh is gonna give sermon! Hi, Josh!”
“Shhh,” I admonished, fingers to lips. “Let’s listen to Josh. He’s going to talk about Jesus today.”
This verbal dance went back and forth between us for five minutes (which felt like 20) while Josh dove into the book of John. I kept praying maybe, just maybe, Joel would be quiet and listen to what his friend had to say. I wanted to hear what Josh had to say!
Frustrated, I shushed Joel once more. “Listen, buddy! Josh is talking about Jesus!”
Joel cocked his head as he looked at me. He looked at his dad. He looked toward Josh standing at the front.“Joel loves Jesus, and Jesus loves Joel!” Joel’s voice rose and fell in a sing-song fashion as he made up a song to the Lord.
“Joel loves Jesus, and Jesus loves Joel! Joel loves Jesus, and Jesus loves Joel! Joel loves Jesus, and Jesus loves Joel!”
My husband grinned.
“He’s preaching his own sermon this morning!”
I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ answer in Matthew 22 when asked “What is the greatest commandment?” “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.'”
Of course, we ended up leaving church early. But it was OK. I knew I’d heard the heart of the Gospel, preached by my son in seven succinct words.
“Joel loves Jesus, and Jesus loves Joel!”
Lord, we pray and pray and pray for healing for our children. We believe you are a miracle-working God. Sometimes the answers to our prayers don’t look the way we expect them to look, or even the way we want them to look. We’re awfully picky, aren’t we? I think of the Israelites, wandering in the desert, hungry and thirsty. You sent them manna, enough for each day, and still they grumbled. Forgive my complaining about this fount springing from my son’s lips, Lord. Let me celebrate each word, even as I attempt to train him in keeping some of his thoughts to himself. But mostly, Lord, train me to listen to the words of wisdom that have been locked inside for so many years due to his autism. We’ve known for years that Joel walks with your Spirit. Open the ears of my heart to listen to what he’s learned.
Questions to Ponder: What prayer have you prayed over your child for years and years? Where have you seen the healing? Was the healing different than what you wanted or expected? Think about those times God has surprised you by speaking through your child’s life in a totally new and surprising way. Write it down or speak it to someone today to glorify the God who refuses to be put in a box.