“I didn’t even realize he was wearing his sweatpants,” I say to my friend, gesturing with one finger toward my son, over to the back of the auditorium where Adam now paces, ankles showing blank below lanky black, just above those bruised-up tennis shoes he likes. I’m not even sure that the elastic on the legs of those pants grips anymore at all; from where I stand, it looks to be dragging loose. And those shoes, well, they’ve seen some life too. Adam never stops moving unless he’s sick. And he likes what he knows, the things rubbed soft and stretched thin, and he doesn’t understand any pretense otherwise.
My friend arches an eyebrow and lays a hand on my arm, gentle but solid, like her friendship. “It doesn’t matter what he’s wearing,” she says evenly. She’s the kind of friend who loves with wisdom carefully spoken.
The plain truth draws my gaze back.
She’s right. Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news…
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
Who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ (Isaiah 52:7)
And today, in those sweatpants and bruised-up shoes, Adam’s just been carrying the good news right in his hands, with a smile all lit-up with light. Maybe it’s the rest of us who need to drop the pretense and let the carrying of Him be our beautiful.
Today, Adam got to give the given–the bread on the trays, the juice in the cups, the elements representing Love, the offering of koinonia. That’s how he felt about it—I get to. How does a person smile like that doing a simple thing like passing trays? But Adam has long savored the Supper, as though being connection-starved makes him more deliberate in tasting communion. Hunger sweetens and deepens sustenance on the tongue.
I can’t quite get over the sight of him leaning with his back against the wall, waiting tall and silent with the rest of the bread-bearers, and this I pocket like a treasure, ambling back through the morning with my friend. Be utterly amazed, God says, “For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told (Habbakuk 1:5).” Ten years ago, I would not have believed that Adam would ever be able to stay in a room full of people, let alone serve communion. My autistic son, serving with-ness on a tray. I am utterly amazed, and I will carry that light of his with me for a while; the way he holds the trays, so pleased. We all want to offer something valuable; it’s a mistake not to see that. Sometimes the best gift of all is to know you can be a giver; that you can give the given. Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, God told Abraham (Genesis 22:18), and that was a gift, an uncountable inheritance, a wealth the world had never seen, to give the Given for the sake of us all. And by the time God said that, Abraham knew what giving meant. Because you have not withheld your son, God said, knowing He would never stop giving his own. God still imparts significance to all of us by allowing us to carry the good news in our hands, by pouring His own sacrifice into cracked cups.
Adam so carefully carries that tray, and it’s not the cups I see but the liquid inside, the rich garnet swaying, reflecting. Please don’t spill it, don’t spill it. I’m doing that mama thing and willing him steady with my broken-mind, even though I know that the same hands that have empowered him to carry the tray would not rebuke him for dropping it. Christ’s was the only spilled blood that actually healed, and his spilling redeemed all our own, not a stain but a rich robe covering. Love covers over. As Ann Voskamp writes, “bad brokenness is healed by His good brokenness,” and “our weaknesses can be a container for God’s glory” (in The Broken Way, that book you must read, 22, 24) and it’s like God carrying the whole feast of us—hundreds upon thousands of tiny cups filled with glory, filled with living water for the desert-parched, and yes, He’ll spill us–and deliberately–all over this shattered place. We get to give the given. And maybe just maybe, the thing they notice is not us but the One inside.
So there’s my boy and surely some would think him broken, the way he reaches for words and struggles to understand. But I think maybe that’s what makes him more whole, because in his own entirely unique way, he knows to savor the Given and he understands the supreme blessing in being allowed to give Him to others. Right now, my son’s weakness makes him a most beautiful cup of glory, and why is it that I still miss that it’s the glory, not the cup that matters?
“You’re right,” I say to my friend, meeting the strength of her gaze. “It really doesn’t matter what he’s wearing.”