Nathan’s first word was ‘wace.’ He was around 15 months old at the time and I was content to hear anything resembling a word come out of his mouth. Although I would have preferred ‘mommy’…I would settle for his version of his second mommy, his then three year old sister Grace. ‘Wace, Wace,’ he would call out to her and she would beam at the sound. But in time, even that word would disappear. It was replaced by one word only, and that word would soon start to drive us all up the wall. ‘Ticka, ticka, ticka, ticka,… on and on ad nauseum. Ticka is not a word of course, but for my toddler son it was his sole vocabulary, amidst ever-increasing screams, cries, and tantrums. Those in the autism spectrum world are familiar with such repetitive verbal chants known as ‘verbal stims,’ , but I was in a state of denial at that time about Nathan. Gee whiz, there were even times I found solace in the way he would ‘ticka ticka’ in his room for hours while running his fingers along the textured walls. That was about the only time I could get any laundry done! I figured the words would come, and I kept jockeying for ‘mommy.’ It would be many more months before that word came, and it came in the form of an echo, but it was still pure beauty to my ears.
While Nathan was showing moderate communication delays, there were many other concerns as well. He was diagnosed with classic autism just before his second birthday. That time was intensely painful and I let the autism consume so much of me. It was all I thought about and I cried for many hours, every day. Now up until then I would have called myself a Christian, but when I needed faith and trust in the Lord the most, I had none. It seemed impossible then to even pray, and truth be told, I resented God for allowing the autism to affect our son. I was a carnal and mediocre follower of the Lord at best. But amidst the pain, the spiritual slug in me woke up. The tears continued, but I started to cry on my knees in submission to God. I had finally found the true battle position, and it was steeped in humility. The Lord God held every one of my tears, and he would soon give me a glimpse of future joys to come…..
It was in the middle of the early autism days when I found myself unable to sleep yet another night. I struggled with turning all of the thoughts and worries off. But on one particular night I felt a certain call inside to go and hold Nathan. Now, it was about three o’clock in the morning, and any autism parent knows that you NEVER wake that child up! Sleep issues are on the worry list too. But the call was certain and so into his bedroom I went. No sooner did I scoop him up into my arms that I started to sob and weep uncontrollably. My body was shaking and I felt certain that he would wake up and flip out over what in the world was going on. And yet he was so amazingly still in my arms. I can still feel that night as I type this today. I knew that I wanted to pray, but my tongue and mouth were useless to speak. I searched for words but it was too colossal and impossible. This mother wept and moaned, and finally one word came pouring out from the deepest crevices of my being…’Jesus.’ In all of the endless hours of worry, chaos, doubt, and fear, only one word was needed, and it made its way out of me amidst the moaning and anguish…’.Jesus’. Romans 8:26 states that, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” It was almost instantly that Nathan began to stir a bit in my arms and then he SPOKE. I heard his voice say the name of Jesus, and it even sounded like he might have SAID ‘I see Jesus.’ Now, I knew he said Jesus. That I was sure on and was flabbergasted at that. I knew it was NOT ticka, ticka, ticka. and I knew it was his voice, but I immediately started to doubt the whole encounter. I told myself that there was no way he said “I see Jesus.’ That would be quite impossible, as he had never at that time said a sentence in his life, let alone a word other than ‘wace’ or ‘ticka’. My heart was burning in my chest and I started to ask Nathan what he said. I pleaded with him to tell me what he said, but in the same moment, it was gone. He had no words for me, but only uncomfortable squirms. I put him back to bed without protest and went back to my bedroom trembling. What had just happened?? I would contemplate that night for years, but what I now know is this- Nathan saw Jesus, and I saw doubt. It’s as simple as that. The boy that was deemed delayed and full of deficits was the only one in that late night room who had eyes to see.
It would be another couple years before Nathan would blurt out small sentences on his own. One such day came as we were driving to one of his therapy sessions. The words almost sent me careening into another car in front of us….’I see Jesus.’ I was amazed to see him gazing out his back seat window at a man next to us on a motorcycle. The man was a classic looking ‘harley dude.’ He had tattoos covering every inch of his exposed arms, long brown scraggly looking hair, and the quintessential ZZ Top beard. He actually returned our stare with a large grin. I instinctively started waving back like a star struck adolescent as I considered what Nathan saw in him. The world might tout such a man a criminal, which is exactly what happened to Jesus as well. My prayer at that moment was simple..’Lord, let me see your creation the way Nathan sees it, and the way that you see it.’
Fast forward a couple more years and we are living in NC. The move to NC from AZ will fill these pages soon enough! But at this time in our lives we were facing the fact that our youngest son Caleb was too having developmental delays. He was not as obviously affected as Nathan, but we could not deny that he too was showing signs of being somewhere on that autism spectrum. By now I had firmly chosen to root my faith and hope in the Lord, and so the tears did not sting the same. Yes, I still cried over Caleb, but I would liken it to a small stream, as opposed to the hurricane that had unleashed years earlier over his brother. I was never hopeless this time, which is all credited to Jesus. I had finally learned to start seeing him too. And so Caleb and I were on our way to see a developmental pediatrician to get the official ‘diagnosis.’ It felt surreal to be doing this again, but I vividly recall singing praise songs out loud during this drive. Did I fail to mention the car accident I got into on the day of Nathan’s diagnosis??..No, not this time. I chose to praise, despite how I felt. Midway there my precious two year old Caleb said ( he too had communication delays of course), ‘I SEE JESUS.’ Yes, you read that right. There was no prompting from me at all. The words just came out of his mouth, and this time I immediately recognized the holiness of the moment. I started shouting for joy..’Where Caleb, where is he? Where is Jesus sweet boy????!!!’ ‘There’ he said, as he gazed out the window. All I could see was a beautiful Carolina blue sky, but I knew he saw more. The tears erupt even as I type this. A day that could have been somber and broken, was transformed into a miracle. We arrived to our appointment and Caleb was quickly back to his usual speech, which was single words with few responses to direct questions. We were there for a couple hours when the doctor revealed what we had already known….that Caleb was on the milder end of the autism spectrum. He was given a label of PDD-NOS, which is a hop, skip, and a jump away from autism. The words penetrated, but I could not stop smiling. I just kept hanging on to what had happened on the car ride over. I looked back at what had happened in my living room at 3am so many years earlier as well. It was all playing over and over and filling my heart with joy at that very moment. ‘I see Jesus’ came out of the mouths of both of my special sons, and it didn’t matter so much about all of the ways they might not be ‘normal’ in this life. They had seen more than most people will ever allow themselves to see. They are the Lord’s, and I have been entrusted to care for them as their mother, which is beyond amazing.
Do you see Jesus?? Get to looking…..