looking for the living
Today, Adam walks inside smelling of grass, his sharp, blue eyes fastened on me, his stride purposeful.
“Hi,” I say, wondering. Is this the day for one of his (His) surprises?
“Hi, Mommy,” He says, waving one hand a little. Then he bends down and kisses me.
And I am blown, like the withered petals of the first flowers my girls cut this morning from our flower beds, grace all glistening from my face like royal jewels. I reach for my son, wrapping my arms around his waist, pressing my nose against his Angry Birds t-shirt. He smells of wild Spring, sweaty and sweet.
He hugs back. He hugs back! And then he takes one step away, searching my eyes with his.
“Do you need something?” I ask him, and I can tell he wants to speak, but the words won’t come. He stands looking at me. “I want…” I start for him, but he just drills me with those eyes, so brilliant and bright and knowing. He says nothing, but I can see that he rubs two of his fingers together.
I lift his hand, examining the fingers, and I see it: dried blood. “Did you hurt yourself?” I ask, turning him around, inspecting his arms, his legs, his face. Nothing bleeding. He leans in to me, still silent.
“Adam, I love you,” I say to him.
“I love you,” he repeats, kissing me again, just laying his lips on top of mine, briefly.
“Are you okay?”
“What would you like to do?” I ask it searching his eyes, looking for something I can read.
“Outside,” he says, glancing away from me for the first time, toward the door. Zoe and some neighborhood friends are jumping on the trampoline. We can hear them giggling and shrieking, the sound of them flying around each other.
“Do you want to go jump with Zoe?”
“Yes,” he says, already moving way from me, heading for the door. And three minutes later, Zoe walks in.
“Adam lost his tooth,” she says, holding it out to me, and I see him reaching in his mouth, always wiggling, pushing. How many times has she spoken the words he can’t find? He’d come to tell me he’d lost that tooth, but he’d lost the words too, maybe on the way inside.
And he’d come to give me a kiss.
April blew in gently while we vacationed at the beach. While I held polished, salt-glazed glass in my fingers, thinking about the way the waves take litter and turn it to treasure; while we marinated in the iridescent light of dying days beside the sea, the new month dawned. Autism Awareness month (some of us are always so. aware. of autism). And resurrection month, at least this year.
And lately, I see Elohim, YHWH, the I am, everywhere, the evidence of what He does. In the heady perfume of blooming flowers sharing space with weeds, mulch, new grass bending; in the ways my children teach in and through and beyond their challenges; in the birds’ nests built out of bits of discarded paper blown from our recycle bins; in the way He tenderly, firmly transforms the mess of me; in the living garden, breathing and alive again, well away from the cold, pitch dark of a sealed tomb; I see Him, I meet Him, I cling to Him, so needy.
I have asked to see. And every day I ask to see more, because the details sometimes threaten to choke out the growth in me. The overwhelming, swollen lists of things around me still undone, the needs still ripe and waiting, it all threatens, ruthlessly, to blind me. And then I find that I am looking for the living among the dead, seeing the tomb empty but not the Savior raised, resting my eyes on the weeds instead of the profusion of petals. I realize that I’ve forgotten the things He promised, that I came to press spices, pour perfume over the dead, to mask things lost, not to celebrate resurrection.
The Spirit has taught me something important through my children. He molds it into me, shaping redeemed clay with holy fingers every day as I wrap myself up with Him, today as I walk, breathing in Spring: It’s all about how I see, what I see, where I’m looking.
So, I ask Him to open my eyes, to turn my face, to show me:
- Not just the loss, but the love layered over it wild, unbidden, unbridled.
- Not just the silence, but the effort to connect, even when words won’t come.
- Not just the weeds in the flower bed, but the blossoming daughter pulling them, coming inside to ask, “Is it just the bent ones I should cut or the ones standing up straight?” And this the daughter once lost to me, the one I thought I’d never find, the word autism spoken over her head, across a table. She sits among the flowers, not in a dead darkness hollowed of things we once dreamed for her.
- Not just the needs and the noise and the too-much, but the daughter who will turn off a TV show she likes because they’ve said words she doesn’t want in her mind, words many would think mild.
- Not just the bruises on Zoe’s thighs from those insulin-dripping needles, but the strength of her heart, the redeemed and warring and resurrected one she’s become, the evidence of the Spirit.
- Not just the still garbled sentences, the tangled, helpless conversations, the understanding forever muddied by autism, but the heart that gets it every time we say, “we need to pray for,” the one who never forgets, our daughter who prays persistently, relentlessly, always for those in need, their names coming easily to her lips.
- Not just the endless questions, but the reasons Riley wants to know.
- Not just the fight against our son’s obsessions, but the way he walks around a prophet, speaking psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). This morning, I heard him crooning Mercyme, “It may just be crazy enough…To work if we could only love…What if we somehow changed the world?”
- Not just the endless, repetitive work, but the progress, however slow and hard-fought.
- Not just the difficulty, but the fingerprints of God all over them.
- Not just the frustration, but the joy.
- And not just the weariness, but the gifts.
So faithfully, He places His hands on my eyes again and again and again…so that I might learn to see this very thing:
Whatever is lost, He redeems. Always. It’s His work: life brought forth from a sealed tomb; blooms from dead seed; creativity and resource from the weariest, most inadequate heart; strength from muscles torn; words from the child who struggles to speak; a home for new life from bits discarded; new dreams out of expectations grieved;
a kiss from a boy who struggles to connect.
By His power, He resurrects.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! (Luke 23:55-24:6).
It’s time I stopped looking for the living among the dead.
1 in 88 children in the U.S. have an autism spectrum disorder, according to the results of the latest study by the CDC. Don’t wait to have your child evaluated if you notice any signs that lead you to believe he or she may be affected. I know your fear; the way the word glares at you from the spines of books in the parenting section at the book store; the way you shudder over the sound of it, the idea, the little you know. But two things I can promise you:
You’re not alone, even when it feels like you are.
And amazing beauty will rise out of all things lost.