Posted in Living Peacefully, The Autism Gospel

Waiting for Peace

It is Advent, a time of waiting. As we wait in places that are dark and uncertain, we hear the voices of the prophets promise the coming of one who will bring Peace, establishing a kingdom marked by Justice and Righteousness. So we wait in silence, desperately trying to block out the noise of the world so we can expectantly wait for our Peace. We strain to listen for words of Hope in these small spaces where we live and work.

For as many years as I can remember, we have struggled with what we hear. Noah’s autism has gifted him with almost super-human hearing, so we often struggle to block or dampen some of the noise in our environments. These environments include school, home, church, restaurants, cars, movie theaters, and anything in-between. Events large and small are painful because he hears so much. Our noise canceling headphones have made us the object of many jeers and jokes. It is just one more way the space we live in is small.

It has occurred to me most recently that all we are really trying to do is hear very certain things, while we exclude other noise. This way of living seems offensive to many. We hear differently, perceive differently and learn differently. There is a beautiful brain between those headphones that most people will never take the time to get to know because it is “other” than themselves.

Likewise, the time of Advent is a time of listening and waiting. It is blocking out the competing messages that promise hope, but only bring emptiness. But many will never truly know it because it is something other than that in which they have come to find comfort. For those of us who constantly struggle to find even the small spaces of acceptance, Advent is familiar.

“The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.”[1]

So we wait for this Christmas Advent and for the great Advent to come. I live in constant hope that sometime before that great and final Advent that we will be a welcome part of a community – something that is not merely tolerated as “other.” But if we live until that day without “receiving the promise,”[2] we will practice Peace while we wait.

 

For God alone my soul waits in silence,

for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my deliverance and my honor;

my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;

pour out your heart before him;

God is a refuge for us. [Selah] [3]

 

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections On Advent and Christmas, 7/31/10 ed., ed. Jana Riess (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 2.

[2] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Heb 11:39.

[3] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Ps 62:5–8.

Posted in Living Peacefully, The Autism Gospel

Healed on the Sabbath

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” 13 And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it?16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?”17 As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame; and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. [1]

 

Part of my son’s diagnostic story is that I was once told he would never read, write, or speak. When I report this at IEP meetings, educators often have one of two reactions. Often they smirk and comment on the fallacy of shortsighted clinicians who shut doors too quickly. Others smile sympathetically in realization of just how much work it must have taken to get where we are today.

Today he reads. He writes. He speaks.

For as long as we have been doing it now, it still never gets old to hear him read aloud, or better still to hear him read something that he himself has written. I think this is a small gift I receive for all the tough nights along the way. But nothing – absolutely nothing – thrills my soul like hearing him read God’s Word during our Sunday worship services.

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Printing his scripture out in a dyslexic friendly font makes him feel more comfortable.

Our church customarily invites Noah to be a part of our worship in this way. This week his text seemed particularly poignant. Luke records an encounter on the Sabbath Day between Jesus and a woman with a long-term illness. While the thrust of the passage is Jesus’ defense of healing this woman on the Sabbath, it was other wording in this passage that caught my ear when read in my son’s voice.

“Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.”

Other interpretations of the Greek ἀπολέλυσαι (apolelysai) read “removed,” instead of healed or freed. In the place of infirmity of illness, a near definition of ἀσθενείας (astheneias) is “weakness” or “limitation.” This could easily read “you are removed from your limitation.”

You are removed from your limitation. And in that there is healing.

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Noah starts his Sundays with a walk around the farm where he greets the animals – especially Smudge the Pig.

I feel that we are removed from our limitations each time our church seeks to include Noah in leading our service. Because the truth of it is, his reading isn’t polished at all. His fluency is so choppy that you can’t really follow along. His speech impediment makes understanding him difficult as well. Our limitations – disability, illness, weakness – are still present. But for just a little while, he is removed from them.

And we are healed on the Sabbath.

 

[1] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Lk 13:10–17.

Mother Teresa once said, “Our vocation is to belong to Jesus so completely that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. What you and I must do is nothing less than putting our love for Christ into practice. The important thing is not how much we accomplish, but how much love we put into our deeds every day. That is the measure of our love for God.”

Practicing Love

Ammon Hennacy, a Catholic Worker, said, “Love without courage and wisdom is sentimentality, as with the ordinary church member. Courage without love and wisdom is foolhardiness, as with the ordinary soldier. Wisdom without love and courage is cowardice, as with the ordinary intellectual.”

Love, Courage & Wisdom

French sociologist Jacques Ellul wrote, “One thing, however, is sure: unless Christians fulfill their prophetic role, unless they become the advocates and defenders of the truly poor, witness to their misery, then, infallibly, violence will suddenly break out. In one way or other ‘their blood cries to heaven,’ and violence will seem the only way out. It will be too late to try to calm them and create harmony.”

Prophetic Witness