If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,the Lord would not have listened.But truly God has listened;he has attended to the voice of my prayer.—Psalm 66:18-19
I have a friend, Michael John Vines, who wrote a rather obscure book about a young girl prophet, called Theophany. To this day, that book remains one of my favorite novels of all time.
Michael is a theologian. He was a close online buddy of mine about a thousand years ago when my boys were diagnosed with autism. One night, we were chatting online and I tearfully asked him why God didn't answer my prayers for my sons.
Michael reassured me that God had heard--and yes, had even answered--every one of my prayers. "It's just that sometimes God's answer is ,"no." Or, "not now," or, "yes, but not in the way you prayed for it."
Once, Mike even dared suggest thatt God never promised us Heaven on Earth. "We get Heaven in Heaven, Traci."
Ouch. I think I half-hated him for daring to tellme the truth in the moment when I thought I most needed to hear a lie. But I also knew he was right. And something deep inside made me cling to that conversation.
Even though I've mostly lost touch with Mike, his words have literally been my light in the darkness a million times . He gave me a beacon, kept me praying, redirected my eye back to where it belonged--on God and His perfect promise to redeem us. To redeem my sons.
Somewhere along the way, I started listening a bit harder for God's answers. And yes, as Mike promised, those answers always came. And no, I didn't always like them. But I did learn to trust them.
Friendship. We rely on it for so much.
When I first realized that my children would face unique challenges in their lives and personal developments, the prediction that they'd struggle with human relationships was one of my biggest worries.
"Who will care for him when I'm not there?" The more I asked the question, the more the answer fled from me. We live in a world filled with people hardwired to interact with each other, to seek and forge friendships. And my children were being left behind more every day.
Indeed, how could my sons ever navigate the intricate maze of social interactions when they could barely tell me their names?
Nobody had an answer. God had a lot of "no, not nows" for me during that time. He was too busy working on the changes He needed to make inside my heart, helping me to become the mother my boys needed. The road from autism as a disease to autism as a developmental difference was a bumpy one.
Nobody I knew had ever been where we were as a family. So I prayed, talked to God, even cursed Him sometimes (he knew I didn't mean it). "Please God, bring the kinds of people into their lives who will get them, who will go that extra mile to unearth the amazing personalities lurking beneath my sons' tics and jerks and stone-faced facades."
Even allowing them to board a schoolbus required a leap of faith. Letting go and letting God stinks sometimes. :) I wanted the sky to open up and reassure me that my sons were headed to good places filled by people who would universally accept and respect them and their differences.
But it's a hard world. Children are seldom taught how to cope with other children who experience developmental challenges. Confidentiality laws prevent teachers from educating and equipping typically developing students on the difficulties suffered by their struggling classmates.
With no how-to-befriend-a -kid-with-autism guide to steer them, children will do what they're hardwired to do--avoid that which they do not understand. I can't blame them for that.
But I can pray, do pray. For them. My sons, their peers. And yeah, myself. :)
And today, God's hourglass on "no, not now" ran dry. My son Jamie brought the answer to many of my prayers and worries for him home, in the form of a poem. That he has even grasped the concept of creating poetry is, in itself a miracle. He has a language disorder.
But *what* he wrote is doubly miraculous.
So if you ever wanted to know what God's word sounds like, translated through the mind of a twelve year old boy with autism, then here it is, the answer to my prayers in the minimalist prose of one of God's perfect angels:
by Jamie Poff
Friends are hard
When You don’t know how
To say hello
If my words won’t come
They don’t call me names
Or say I’m dumb.
And share his snacks.
My friend Jacob
has my back.
So I try real hard
To be a friend.
To say hello Jacob
When the words get stuck
And just won’t flow.