The “Poor in Spirit”
“Pure, unspoiled religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: to come to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping from the enticements of the system.”
Who are orphans and widows? I propose they are ALL who are poor in spirit. Those whose attachments to this world in the form of security has been ripped from them. For these are the persons whose is the “Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Why does God call us into union with the poor? Why was Jesus central mission lived out with the “poor in spirit”?
I believe it is because they possess a beauty that those of us who are “in control” have lost. They have a faith that is active and alive. They already come with open hands and an open heart. They are not afraid to receive. They are already in an “lowly” position, much like the Christ-child born in a manger. They know they have a need and are not afraid of that need nor are they able to hide their need. They can not compete or control. They do not look at others as inferior or superior to themselves. They simply are. They emulate love and non-judgement.
So it is with persons with autism. Their bodies are frequently sabotaged by their shattered sensory systems and inability to control their urges and do not tell the story of their intelligence. Every day, hour and minute, they are assessed as the sum total of their behaviors and labeled mentally inept. Behaviors that can destroy, harm self or others, and embarrass (one young communicator typed, “autism is not polite”). Behaviors that appear nonsensical to the observer but hold a very functional purpose to the person performing them for, without this behavior, true insanity would take over. Stimulatory behavior (repetitive behavior that is without function to most) is what nonverbal persons with autism type help them cope in a world that overwhelms them. This behavior is functional. There is no more essential of a function that to survive.
Kayla is a young woman with nonverbal autism who is no longer a teenager. She goes weeks at a time with no sleep…ever. No sleep at night, no naps during the day. This means her family does not sleep hardly at all as Kayla frequently pounds on her door throughout the night. Kayla’s mother is a woman of prayer and believer of HOPE. One day she heard of a therapist who teaches nonverbal persons with autism to type. At a divine encounter, this mother of HOPE pulled the instructor aside and asked her to work with her daughter. With enthusiasm, the teacher agreed and they scheduled an assessment for Kayla. The teacher told Kayla’s mother about a church that met weekly for a special needs youth group. The mother had no idea a place like this existed. A place where persons like her daughter were taught a lesson and had social time together where they danced and interacted with others their age both like them and those who understood their beauty. It was also a place of refuge for parents and caregivers.
They soon joined our group, Special Nation. It was at this group that Kayla jumped up at the end of a lesson to help give the “blessing” from Numbers 6:22-27. The past few weeks Kayla had observed me (the bible teacher) and my daughter, Gentry (a young woman very much like herself) raise our arms and give a blessing over the group. This time Kayla joined us…smiling, raising her arms and stomping her feet. It was clear that I was a conduit for their voices. I could not have been more honored.
Later that week Kayla’s mother told me she found a decorative sign with the blessing on it and put it over Kayla’s bed. She said Kayla pulled her to the room and (with much intention) pointed directly at the sign. I told her mother to pray the blessing with and over Kayla each night as part of her bedtime routine. Much to this mother’s delight, Kayla slept through the night that night!
Although Kayla still lacks the sleep her body really needs…she is having her spirit ministered to. She has found a place of belonging and there she radiates. She is understand and talked to as like any other person her age…as if she understands, matters, and is loved. This is what community is.
Britton is a young man from Texas. His parents are autism warrior parents. From a stroke as a child due to a vaccine injury to abuse and an arrest later in life…their story horrifies. But in the horror this is HOPE. Britton’s Doctor, a local in Ponte Vedra, tells them about the typing instructor. They fly her out to see them and they take steps toward releasing his voice.
I compare this rebirth to physically giving birth. There are many emotions involved. Joy and pain being the primary ones. Struggle and longing being right up there on the list!
Britton has no community in Texas as we do here. He types on day that he wants to go on an adventure. His mother asks where and he types that he wants to see his friends at Special Nation. These are the friends he only met once at an all-day training followed by a social get-together.
I want to go in 62 days, he types. Sixty two days? Why, thought his mother. She grabbed her calendar. That was his birthday. The issue was, the church was not meeting that Wednesday as it was the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving.
His Mom sent word of Britton’s request to our group. Instantly, people began saying they would come to see Britton. The day came and a crowd had gathered…one our largest. Britton’s anxiety was great. His father was locked head to head with him in the parking lot much like 2 ram’s fighting. Our group gathered. I was praying. Before we began the lesson, I led a prayer and our group began to pray for Britton. We began to pray that PEACE will overtake him. After the prayer, he immediately walked in and sat down with his father beside him. He stayed for the whole lesson and we gathered to give him a cupcake with candles and sing happy birthday to him.
This is Special Nation. This is the Poor In Spirit. This is what my spirit needs. This is why we are building Peace of Heart Community. It is not the physical building that makes the community (though we need it for life to happen)…it is the heart of the person with autism that makes our community a better place to be!