Last week, as I toured friends around Cloudland, our contemplative retreat center set in the midst of fields of corn and soy, they asked me about the large painting of Jesus hanging in our prayer room. In the painting, Jesus kneels in the middle of a group of children with disabilities. Front and center, sitting at Jesus’ feet, is a blonde-headed boy, who very carefully places a Band-Aid over the wound on Jesus’ hand.
Here is what I told them about the painting:
Centering down in prayer one day when our youngest son, Joel, was 4 years old (and diagnosed at that point with PDDNOS), I had a vision of Jesus sitting on the floor in the middle of Joel’s special needs classroom. All the children gathered around. This vision unfolded with a specificity I’d never before experienced. Before my inner eyes, Joel plunked down next to Jesus, reaching up and touching his hair. Taylor hung on one arm, jumping up and down. Teddy stood behind, arms wound tightly around Jesus’ neck. Justin, who was not mobile, was cradled on Jesus’ lap; and Thomas, who seldom looks anyone in the eye, stared intently into Jesus’ face. The room reverberated with Trevor’s excited shrieks and Daniel’s monotone song.
As the scene unfolded, Joel picked up Jesus’ hand. As he examined the hand that had fashioned the heavens and the earth he found a wound. He leaned down and kissed it.
“Hurt,” Joel said. Tenderly he kissed it again. “Hurt,” he said again. “Band-Aid.”
Jesus looked up at the teacher and nodded. She went to the closet, got the Band-Aids, and handed the box to Jesus. He gave one to Joel. Jesus helped Joel unwrap the Band-Aid and patiently guided Joel’s fingers to place the Band-Aid on the wound.
This prayer vision shattered me. My son, whom I had viewed as “broken,” greeted the living Christ with a kiss to the hand that was nailed to the cross two thousand years ago. A child, a child with multiple disabilities, ministering to the Lord.
My worldview was turned upside down. Who was the broken one, Joel or me?
30 years later, I’m just now realizing that this vision was a prophetic word over Joel’s life. What was that word? That the Holy Spirit would endow Joel with the spiritual gifts of healing and compassion.
Joel has participated on healing teams with me and my husband for years. He doesn’t say much. He just lays a hand on a person and says, “Dear God, make ____ better. Amen.” Often, he seeks out people that he believes need prayer. He is like a heat-seeking missile when this happens. There is no stopping him. If he thinks you need prayer, he’s going to pray for you.
As I stood in front of that painting a few days ago, retelling the story of that vision to my friends, I was gobsmacked.
Yes! Joel does indeed have the gifts of healing and compassion! In his care and concern and compassion for people who are hurting, Joel administers the care, concern, and compassion of Jesus. And through that compassion, healing flows.
But guess what? This isn’t cute. This is real. People have experienced healing under Joel’s hand. Healing of headaches and painful knees and broken hearts.
Our kids with autism and cerebral palsy and Down syndrome aren’t “cute” when they pray. Some of them are gifted with a power to administer Jesus’ healing touch. Some of them are gifted with mercy. Some are gifted with hospitality. Some are gifted with joy. The scriptures are clear:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (NIV)
The Holy Spirit doesn’t discriminate when handing out spiritual gifts.
Do you need language to be gifted by the Holy Spirit? Do you need a high IQ? Do you need to be physically strong? Do you need to live without anxiety, and never experience a melt-down?
No, no, no, no, and again, no!
The Spirit distributes all of the gifts for the same God, who is at work in everyone. And The Spirit distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Alleluia! It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
Questions to ponder: What is your child’s spiritual gift? How can you encourage that gift to grow and flourish?
Kathleen Deyer Bolduc is the mother of 3 sons, the youngest of whom has autism. She is the author of 4 books, including award-winning The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities and Autism & Alleluias. She and her husband own and run a contemplative retreat center, Cloudland, outside of Oxford, Ohio.