One green, green day, the Lord looked upon the earth. He admired his sons and his daughters. He smiled at all of the wonderful animals, and he gazed tenderly at each new baby. The round blue earth, with all of its people and puppies and flowers and trees, seemed complete.
But the Lord was not so sure. He thought about it for a while, and then he said to himself, I am not done yet. I need someone who is a little different.
Let there be a child, he said.
Let there be a child who is unlike any other child.
This child will challenge the convention of sports, and religion, and academics, and friendship.
He will scream without pause for the first six months of his life, and then hush to an eerie quiet for the next three years.
He can put the keys into the ignition of a car and start it long before he can speak his first word.
This child will be earnest, and honest, and pure.
His eyes will remain downcast and sideways, and his fingers will twitch and dance to a silent song, and his sleep will be interrupted and scarce.
He will live in the trenches of fear and anxiety every single day of his life.
One day, this child will stand in Walgreens and load his mother’s cart with Trojan’s and Vagisil and hemorrhoid cream while she talks to a neighbor about all the different companies who can plow your driveway in the dead of a New Hampshire winter for a good price.
The Lord decided He needed a child who can tell a surprise joke at the dinner table, and demonstrate the art of a one-armed hug, and memorize the running time of every Disney movie ever made.
This child will live a story of challenge and delight—tenacity and resolve.
He will disrupt the idea of an ordinary family.
He will stand amongst the throngs of children on the playground, and try to figure out their games and their jokes and their inner language the way most people try to figure out an intricate game of chess.
He will live most of his life scared, and alone.
With these thoughts in mind, God made a boy.
And He gave this boy something called autism.
He did not explain where the autism came from, or why. He left it to the people to figure it out what it even was.
Then he watched from high above the round blue earth as they argued and pointed their long fingers at vaccines and each other. He watched them type up research reports and conduct experiments and fight about genetics and whether or not gluten was the problem.
Carefully, he watched a family.
He watched one gray afternoon in the early spring, when the boy was a long, lanky 13-year old, and he screamed and shouted and called his mother a monster because she told him he needed to stop snacking on crackers and wait for dinner.
And this mother, she felt herself teeter on the edge of a frustration so deep, and so fierce, that she had to walk out of the house and down the long driveway to collect herself.
When she came back inside, she walked past the backpacks on the counter and the opened box of crackers on the table. She didn’t even notice the crumbs.
She went upstairs with her little dog, and pressed her face into his soft, warm neck. When he saw this, God couldn’t help but smile a little, because that’s why dogs have soft, warm necks. For collecting the sadness.
He watched her straighten up and wipe her eyes when her son called for her.
Mom. Where for. Are you.
She walked back down the stairs, and she began again.
I’m right here, buddy. I’m here.
Over the course of the evening, the Lord watched this mother rally, and fall, and rally, and fail.
He watched a father teach his complicated boy how to use the tractor, and change a light bulb, and pump gas. He watched his tireless devotion amidst the shards of shattered dreams—a dusty baseball glove sitting on a shelf in the garage, an empty vial of medicine waiting for a refill.
He watched this family reach it’s breaking point one day. This happened in an airport, with a lot of people. There was a very long line and the family was late and the boy just dropped to the floor and started to scream for no reason. They were very late for the flight and they did not know what to do.
The mom and the dad, they were sure they could not take one more minute of this—of wanting different things but also wanting the same things and not having any idea how to get what they wanted. They did not know how to soothe the hurt that burned between them.
He watched. Dear Lord, he watched it all.
And from high above the round blue earth, He prayed.
Hands folded, on bended knee, he prayed they would know that some days, it doesn’t matter where it came from. Sometimes, it only matters where he’s going.
Where is he going?
That is the big question.
Is this boy going to some kind of college or a group home or to the basement to sleep on an old plaid couch they inherited from the dad’s aunt?
Will he be independent?
Will he be happy?
No one really knows.
Still, the Lord prayed. He prayed, and he asked just one question.
Won’t you see what I see?
Won’t you see how hard he is trying?
Won’t you see in this boy the image of a butterfly, nestling deep within his safe, warm cocoon, only to reinvent himself in all of his surprising, luminous glory?
Give him time. He will surprise you.
Let him surprise you.
Because if you are very, very still and you are very, very quiet, this child will let you into his dreams. He will sit beside you and twitch his singsong fingers and talk in his halted tones about car safety and Oreos and hotdogs and sunlight. He will remind you that the first time he saw fire was July 26th, 2008.
Into this boy’s ear, God whispered gently.
Do not give up. Perhaps today you are not a leader amongst boys, but one day you will stand a knight amongst men.
And to the round blue world, God announced softly.
This child is my son.
His name is Jack.
He is here for a reason, so we may learn to love the unusual, and learn from the complicated.
He is exactly who he is supposed to be.