A few weeks ago, after our morning service in church, Peter was sitting at the back of the room waiting for us to leave. He had my phone and was enjoying taking photos. Like most children, he enjoys taking a good selfie, but at some point he turned the camera around so he was taking shots of everything he could see in front of him. This week I was scrolling through my photos and these shots caused me to stop and reflect on what Peter sees. His understanding of church, the gospel and faith are not what we could consider ‘normal’ because of his autism. It’s really difficult to gauge how much he understands, if anything (yet). But while looking at these photos it hit me like a ton of bricks – he sees and notices things that are communicated not through words but through gestures, facial expressions and body language, even if doesn’t understand what we’re saying. From Peter’s vantage point he must notice things that we can overlook – like different skin colour and such an assorted age group (where else do you find elderly people and babies sitting beside each other, outside of family gatherings?!) I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I hope he notices all the non-verbal signs of the gospel, even if he is never able to understand the reality of what salvation or faith really mean.
Some of the photos have identifiable people in them and I wouldn’t want to embarrass them by sharing them on the blog, but here is blurry shot, that encapsulates what I’m trying to say.
Here’s what I hope he notices…….
People who like each other – who show love and interest in one another
People who look very different from each other, yet greet each other with a smile or a hug
People who are always singing and praying and opening a bible and talking about God (even if he doesn’t understand who God is, I want him to associate God with something positive and loving)
People who are willing to extend a hand of help or encouragement to each other, to pray for each other and be honest with one another
It’s a difficult topic to discuss because it’s so raw for us, but the reality is there are many people who will never be able to understand the gospel message because of a disability or illness than effects them neurologically. We don’t know if Peter will be one of those people. But one thing I am certain of is that he can understand what it is to see, feel and show love. At the end of the day, that is the essence of the gospel, the greatest act of love ever offered. As Christians who have received this gift of love, our salvation, we have a duty to show love to others. Not just in preaching the gospel but in living out this overflow of love that dwells within us. Our actions, gestures, body language and attitude should suggest love, in a way that can be felt by those around us. That is my hope for our home and the world in which we raise our son.