The sanctuary was dark. The air was thick with grief, tension, and anticipation of what we all knew was coming next. But nothing prepared me for what my eyes were about to behold. I was watching our church’s Easter pageant from the middle of the large auditorium. We had just witnessed the Passion of Jesus as He had been tortured and crucified. The scene was dark, the people quiet. Suddenly, a bright light shone from the stage, illuminating a massive wall of angels from the ground to the ceiling, lined across the entire width of the stage. They were all wearing white and singing with choreography. I couldn’t help but cry at the sight. It was beautiful. But I wondered, how did they do that?!
The secret to how they pulled it off all came down to one incredibly large piece of material called a scrim that is invisible to the audience. What the audience sees either in front of or behind the scrim is completely dependent on the lighting. When all is dark behind the scrim, and the only lights are in front of the scrim to light the stage and actors, the audience is oblivious to the fact that not only is there something actually there, but there are things happening behind the scene that they are blind to. So while we were caught up in the death of Christ in our seats, little did we know that a couple hundred angels were silently filling the stage behind the scrim. Then as Jesus appeared, the scene behind the scrim was lit and the audience could see everything in its fullness.
We have taught all of our children about God, His love for them, and the work of Jesus on the cross for their salvation. Despite the fact that Samuel has autism, we firmly believe that God can, and does work in his heart – even if it means we don’t always see it very well. Last spring, I had the privilege of leading my son to Christ as he wanted to ask Jesus to forgive him and save him. I heard my son tell me many times how much he loves Jesus, words I thought were impossible when he was first diagnosed.
He sits with us and participates in family devotions. He goes to Sunday school. He sits through the whole church service. But often, he seems like he’s not paying attention. We have to disengage him from scripting. We have to call his name a few times and try to engage him by giving him directions, like reading Bible verses, or answering specific questions. In church, he draws on his iPad, or types in the Notes app. When he types, he typically writes out the names of cast members and their movie character from his current movie obsession. He gets blank sheets of paper and copies the movie title exactly as it appears on screen. That means font style and any images included. Because he appears so often not to be paying attention, we often make the mistake of assuming that he isn’t paying attention and doesn’t know what’s going on.
But then, something happens that illuminates that which we could not see before. This past fall, we got a sneak peek behind the scrim of autism. I was scrolling through all the notes written on the iPad. I saw multiple Frozen and Star Wars cast lists. I saw several random notes written by allowing the app to predict the next word, which results in a weird jumble of random words. And then I saw the words, “God never dies…” My interest piqued, I clicked on the note. It read:
God never dies and lives forever! He died on the cross and rose from the dead. He has saved us from our sins. God was also never born and made everyone’s life, even JESUS! Remember…JESUS is God. God has four names: JESUS, LORD, YAHWEH, and I AM. [I AM who I AM] JESUS never lies. He never fails. God always keeps his promises. God will do all of his holly will. YAHWEH is so powerful that he won! I love Jesus and he loves me. I believe and trust in God (Jesus Christ) and also trust in me. God always forgives us!
Tears welled up in my eyes. Our teaching had not been in vain. Samuel had written those words completely independent of any directions from anyone. I had not instructed him to write about that. He said he was just thinking about it and decided to write about it during the service one day. I absolutely love how he capitalized “JESUS” and the other names for God. I wondered if he was repeating these words from somewhere. But he told me they were all his words. They were his thoughts that he typed out that day. This was not echolalia or scripting.
This was the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart and mind.
As special-needs parents, we can only see what is illuminated in front of the special-needs scrim. We can’t see behind the scenes of disability. We don’t know the connections our child’s brain is making, or the knowledge he’s accumulating. We can’t see that God really is working in his heart and that beautiful brain – until the light switch is flipped behind the scrim. Suddenly, we see. We understand that though we couldn’t see it, there was a whole lot of silent activity going on behind that scrim. And when we finally see the whole picture, we can only stand in awe and praise God for His grace.
Be ye encouraged, dear parent. The seeds you are planting as you are diligent in giving your child the Gospel are fulfilling a purpose, regardless of whether or not you think they understand you. Keep planting. Keep praying for God to illuminate the stage behind the scrim. But be prepared when He does. You won’t believe your eyes!
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