I don't care what you think is impossible
Thirteen years ago, God wrote it loud, carved it deep in the walls of our hearts:
It doesn’t matter what makes sense.
And because He knows I need things repeated, not quite two years later He traced over the words again, and the letters were block-shaped and quick. He added this:
And it doesn’t matter how it all looks to you, because I don’t care what you think is impossible.
In the mad rush of afternoon, she sits at the bar, studying for a Social Studies test. We are talking about da Vinci and polymaths, about the Renaissance. Sometimes I wonder how much of this stuff will stay with her, and then she’ll read something weeks later and look up at me, repeating a word, and I’ll see recognition and delight flash across her features. “I know about that,” she’ll say, smiling like she does, all blooming beauty.
I move around the kitchen, posing questions as I slice through salmon, as I whisk together a few ingredients for a glaze, and in the background, I hear the rough crackle of velcro yanked apart. In the living room, Adam sits his conversation notebook on the ottoman, leaning over it purposefully. Sometimes his timing isn’t optimal.
“Hey Riley,” he says, standing next to her, holding a word in his hand, a talisman for jumping off. “Do you like to play golf on the Xbox?”
The question makes me smile for its specificity. It doesn’t make sense that he should already be able to put together so many words at once without the help of his notebook. Steadily, he shows me that my expectations sometimes fail him because I am so focused on what feels possible to me.
Riley pauses mid-sentence. “Yes, Adam. I do like to play golf on the Xbox. But Adam, I’m trying to concentrate. But thank you for asking me.” She turns back to me, collecting herself, searching her memory. “Umm, I think that’s scientific drawings—that tell us da Vinci tried to represent nature accurately.”
She says things like this, looking at me sensibly, and sometimes I feel the memories blowing through me. God never stops showing me what He’s done, reminding me of what was before. I remember her locked away in her own mind, not meeting our eyes, unable to speak and so frustrated. I remember the early days of autism, the ones I thought would never end.
“Who said, ‘The end justifies the means?'” I ask her while snapping the ends off of the asparagus, as I arrange them on a baking sheet, still smiling over Adam’s inquiry and her polite response. Again the velcro, from the living room, and Adam appears at her side.
“Hey Riley, do you like Saturday?” He says, standing on his tip toes, watching her face. Lately the two of them have grown close, sealed together by a silent bond of understanding. He can hardly wait for her response. He can hardly wait. And again I am Elisha’s servant, realizing how long I’ve been blind, gasping at the armies of God gathered on the hill (2 Kings 6).
She laughs a little, turning to him, reluctantly letting go of my question. “Yes, Adam. I do like Saturday. But Adam. I am trying to study for Social Studies, okay? But thank you for asking me, Adam.” He shrieks, wild laughter escaping.
She looks at me, briefly lost. I repeat the question. “Who said, ‘The end justifies the means?'”
“Umm, I think that’s, I think that’s,” she says, searching her mind. And from the living room, the ripping sound of velcro, and Adam is next to her, another word sitting in his palm. She puts her hand on her forehead. “I’m not so good at saying his name,” she says to me, quickly, before Adam can speak.
“Hey Riley, do you like Diary of a Wimpy Kid books?” Already he giggles, delighted with his question.
She sighs, the hand still on her forehead. “Yes, Adam. I like Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. But Adam? I’m trying to do my homework right now. I really like your questions. Thank you for asking me about it, but right now I’m trying to concentrate.”
He grins, reaching for her, touching her lips with his fingers. He wants her to smile, to laugh with him. He lives to make her laugh. My children don’t seem to understand that humor is supposed to be lost on them.
“Are you getting frustrated, Riley?” I ask her as Adam turns back to the living room to search for another word, another question. She has taught him this, this way of relating, even the addressing by name. When she’s feeling silly, she asks him dozens of ridiculous questions, all beginning with “Hey Adam.” After supper sometimes, they laugh loud, all three. Adam makes hats for Riley out of pieces of tin foil and napkins while she quizzes him. “Hey Adam, are you a hamburger? Yes or no?”
She looks at me with tired eyes, her hand still on her forehead. “It’s just…he keeps coming over here and asking me questions and saying, ‘Hey Riley’ and ‘blah blah blah blah blah‘ over and over again.” She glares at me, leaning across the bar on her arm.
I laugh out loud, recognizing something I’ve felt written on her face, lacing her words. She’s so happy Adam finally talks to her that she never wants to tell him to stop or not now. She, maybe more than all the rest of us, knows the value of his attempts, how hard they come. But just this moment, it’s almost too much to juggle. She still has to work hard to understand. Continually, she untangles a knot of language and social subtlety, laying it out flat, arranging meaning like the pieces of a puzzle. And still, she doesn’t want to ask him not to talk to her. It doesn’t make sense that she should be so sensitive to him, but most of the time she seems more attentive to Adam’s needs than her own.
I can’t help but laugh at the delicious, impossible irony of it. I never would have guessed I’d ever hear her say that he keeps asking her questions and blah blah blah blah blah. None of us would ever expect a once wordless child to talk too much, nor anticipate that another once wordless child would one day reluctantly complain about it.
How many times can I say it, for the ones still staring down impossible, the ones still stuck at can’t and probably never?
We must not give in when the how haunts, when it sits heavy on our shoulders like a specter. There were years when I wondered if either of my autistic children would ever speak, when I ached just to hear them say my name. I’ve listened to maybe hundreds of opinions, to the recitation of data and the results of testing. I’ve read written lists of their weaknesses, of the things they can’t or might never do. I’ve left evaluations feeling overwhelmed by all the reason stacked against possibility. The suggestion has been made more than once that Adam speaks only to meet his own needs, that he might never just find pleasure in relating. And days still come when even I try to predict what will become of my children, how their lives will be. We make decisions now that will impact their future, and it makes me tremble because I wish I knew and somehow I still think it’s up to me.
But over and over I’ve seen that what they become in God’s hands is so much more than I could have imagined. It defies all the lists, all the weaknesses, all the reason. Bees fly anyway, they say, and so for years I’ve worn a bee pin on my lapel, especially when I can’t see how it will ever be, to remind me that it doesn’t matter what makes sense to me. It doesn’t matter what I can see, or what I read, or what people say.
God knows I need things repeated. So He wrote it twice, carving it deep, tracing over the lines. He shaped these beautiful reminders for me with His own hands, building them in my body, scooping up the clay of me:
I don’t care about your data, or your evidence, or your lists.
I don’t care what you can understand, what you think you know.
Things are not as they appear.
Know this: all that matters is my glory, my power, my purposes.
I love you further than you can ever see. And it.doesn’t.matter what makes sense.
You just watch. Watch me show myself mighty.
Wednesday night, and we head home from Bible study, walking through the gravel parking lot. We thundered through homework with her hand on her forehead, through supper, through shoes on and in the van. We worked on an essay together as I drove, turning the music just loud enough for Adam to hear and Zoe to dance, just quiet enough for Riley to think. Not once did she complain, sitting taller than me in the seat beside, thirteen years my reminder of what God does, what He alone can do. And as we head home, I hear her, talking to him behind me. “Adam, wait.” I turn to see, looking back to glimpse them, God’s glory in the glow of the street lights.
And she’s on her knees in front of him, not thinking of the gravel at all, tying his shoes tighter so he won’t trip.
According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway. Because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible (~Bee Movie).
The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute?( Who gives them sight or makes them blind? )Is it not I, the Lord? Now go;( I will help you speak and will teach you what to say (Exodus 4:11,12.)’