This Sunday, Christian families will take their children to an Easter worship service. Many families will be traveling with plans to visit a church home that is not their own. Other families struggle to find a place where their special needs children are welcomed.
Visiting an unfamiliar church, particularly on a holiday, can put a family dealing with autism over the edge.
That’s why I’m sharing a true story with you. If you are stressed out about attending a holiday service, I hope this story makes you realize you are Not Alone. Pull up a chair and let me take you there:
A holiday service at my mother’s church in her coastal town. A packed house with many travelers visiting that day.
Rolling into the sanctuary doors — and just in the nick of time (as usual) — are Elise, my eleven-year-old daughter, followed by my husband Matt. I trail behind them with a firm grasp on my then nine-year-old autistic son Alec. We begin the long walk down the center aisle in search of a group of empty seats.
We walk. And walk. And walk. You get the picture.
Elise spots them first: a cluster of seats located three rows from the front. (That’s right! WAY UP in the front. Directly in front of the pastor.)
Now, you might think that a responsible parent would check Alec into a Sunday school class. But we autism parents have superhero-like powers to detect potential problems, and my internal sensors were reading “MELTDOWN PROBABILITY: 99.985%” as I passed the sign-in station for the Sunday school area.
If I checked Alec into this unfamiliar Sunday School class, I knew my pager number would flash on the Time Square-like monitors just minutes into the sermon. Big, bold numbers, shouting a secret language:
“Hey, come and get your son! NOW!”
Not today, I think. I need church today. Our family was going through a challenging trial, and I was desperate for biblical encouragement that could nourish my weary soul.
So … Alec comes with us into the sanctuary. We sit down as the lights dim. My husband, seated next to me, asks me to pass Alec his smartphone.
I whisper to Matt, “Is the sound switched to OFF?“
“I double-checked it.” He leans over me and instructs Alec to play only the Angry Birds game.
The service was wonderful. I was refreshed as I stood proudly with my family, belting out worship songs as loudly as I could. I dutifully jotted down the pastor’s meticulously-planned sermon points.
Point One. Point Two. Point Three.
Eventually the pastor began his summary statement, wrapping up his holiday message into one powerful point that we could take home to ponder at our leisure.
“And finally, what we can learn from today’s Bible story is …” the pastor began, hovering a few feet from my sweet little family.
I couldn’t help but smile. Here I was, a typical, proud mama with her well-behaved family on this beautiful holiday weekend.
And that’s when it happened.
Somehow, in some way, Alec managed to restore the sound on Matt’s smartphone. And it wasn’t quiet. It was loud. Very loud.
There is really no way for you to get the full effect of this story other than to let you hear the actual sound yourself.
Click on this video, and you, too, can experience the beautiful backdrop that my son generously provided for the pastor’s closing sermon point: (Go ahead. Be brave and click the link:)
What happened next was something I will always refer to as “The Miracle on Mother’s Day.” Because to this day, I know that it was a miracle that my son made it out of that sermon alive.
You might think that either I or my husband would have quickly turned off the sound. That did not occur. Believe me, Matt tried. As the entire row in front of us turned to stare, my husband, with the speed of a cheetah, leaned over me and yanked the phone from my surprised son’s hands.
He jabbed at the screen. He punched buttons. He slapped the phone against his palm … but the soundtrack continued.
Quickly, I positioned myself strategically in between my frantic husband and my son, aware that Matt might send my young son on an impromptu trip meet Jesus. I glanced at my socially-aware middle schooler, Elise. She was melting into her seat, her face in her hands.
Matt punched. Matt jabbed. Nothing. The Angry Birds continued to chirp. The pigs squealed. The lady in front of me turned to give us THE STINK EYE. I looked to the left and to the right, and all eyes were on us.
Then my desperate husband, fresh out of alternatives, jumped up and sat down HARD! on his phone, quieting — but not completely blocking — the sounds. We waited for the video to finish, thirty more seconds of chirps and oinks. It was the longest 1.5 minutes of my life.
Then I heard it, over the muffled sounds of the Angry Birds theme song trumpeting, er, emanating from my husband’s behind. The lady in front of me, the one who gave us THE STINK EYE, started to giggle. Then I started to giggle with her. Elise lowered her hands from her face, tentatively. And Matt exhaled, a deep breath of surrender.
In that moment, my family, Matt, Elise, Alec and I, surrendered, understanding that:
Living with a special needs child is living a life
that is sometimes out of our control.
And that’s perfectly okay.
We left the service that day with tears of laughter streaming down our faces. We were victors, a family of desperados who survived the Out of Town Holiday Worship Service.
God’s Great Gift of Laughter
Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there is
“a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
I am filled with gratitude for God’s gift of laughter, because there are times when laughter is the only thing that has gotten me through our journey with autism. I remind myself, especially on the hardest of days, to laugh a little each and every day.
In fact, the Bible teaches that strength can be found in the joy of the Lord. (Nehemiah 8:10) Don’t we all need dose of strength for the hard days?
Now It’s Your Turn: Do you have a story to share?
Do you have a funny story to share? If so, please post it in the comments. It’s always a good day to laugh! And never forget this free tip from my husband, Matt:
Triple-check your smartphone sound settings
before passing it off to your child during Easter service!
Have a Blessed Easter! He is Risen!!!
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