Autism, Heaven, and Walking with Jesus

*Image courtesy of Photos by Amy Lynne

*Image courtesy of Photos by Amy Lynne

I desire quality time with my kids, both together and one-on-one. All too often in Asia, we aren’t alone in our car, and if we are, the noise drones on and on, eradicating any hope of meaningful conversation. I’m trying to take advantage of the time each week I take Gary to his occupational therapy. It’s a thirty minute drive one way, and I intentionally don’t bring Joelle to these appointments. I want my son's heart; I want the glimpses into the boy he is and the young man he is becoming. I want the preview of his thoughts. And so, as we drive to these obligatory appointments, we talk. Or rather, my boy talks, and I listen. I listen, and I wait, and I rejoice at the glimpse he shows me as he jerks back the magic curtain for a brief moment in time.

Recently, he started talking about Heaven out of the blue. He recited Scripture that he’s learned and all of the things he’s heard in Sunday School. According to Gary, Heaven is like this: “Heaven is never getting hurt again. Heaven is climbing a really tall tree and jumping, knowing that God will catch you before you fall. God will always catch you in Heaven. Heaven is doing all the things you never could do before because of your fear.”

As we continued to talk about Heaven and how awesome it will be to finally be Home, Gary started asking me about our family. One by one he went through the litany of names of our extended family, wondering aloud if each person knows Jesus and will be in Heaven with him one day. I held my breath and paused a little too long when he inquired about certain ones. Gary was truly shocked that not every single family member of ours loves Jesus like his experience has always been. When Gary heard the news that someone he dearly loves is not walking with God, he cried. And not just a little trickle either. He was upset for days, wondering how that beloved relative handled things without God. “How do they make it through the hard days? What do they do when troubles come?” For even my eight year son knows there’s no Hope apart from God. 

And this is where he got stuck. Gary has Asperger’s. This means that certain issues become like broken records, and try as we might, no needle is going to cause that melody to have another note.  My son is stuck on the fact that people he knows and loves do not know and love Jesus. And he is not okay with that! He weeps, and he perseverates; he prays, and he thinks of ways he can tell them the Truth. People in my son’s world do not know Jesus, and he refuses to just let it go and move on!

It kind of makes me wish more Christians had Asperger’s; perhaps then we would stay “stuck” on all the issues that God never intended us to walk away from, and we wouldn't waste our breath (or our time) on inconsequential jargon. The blessing of autism is fixating on what others so readily dismiss.

The conversation progressed from thoughts of climbing trees risk-free in Heaven and wondering which family members hold our faith as a sacred treasure to talking about the Cross. Funny how we can’t talk long about Heaven before we have to mention the Cross. We can’t have one without the other. And Gary gets this. He knows that Jesus is his only access, and so he focuses his mind every day on the sacrifice that was made. Over and over and over again, he recounts the Old Old Story in great detail. As I turned on my street, Gary said perhaps the most profound thing I’ve heard in a long time: “Jesus died for what happens now”. I couldn’t agree more.

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