This is an update sort of post.
It’s been many months since I covered this topic, and for a long time things stayed very much the same with my now 12 year old autistic son being a very firm atheist for over a year.
I was committed to see through Nathan’s spiritual journey without pressuring him to believe what I wanted him to. Because I personally have spent so much of my life dedicated to learning about and loving God, this took iron patience and a new kind of faith. Respecting Nathan’s feelings about God and giving him time to wrestle with the concepts lead to a surprising outcome.
For some needed background, I recommend these two previous posts that set the stage for where we are as I have covered this fascinating journey:
It all started with Social Studies. As Nathan studied world civilizations, he noticed that these were the same people groups spoken of in the Bible. The Egyptians, the Hebrews, the Babylonians, the Assyrians–each one of these groups is recorded in the narratives of the Bible. He learned how all the groups were poly-theistic, and the Hebrews were mono-theistic. In his autistic support class he watched the Dreamworks animated movie The Prince of Egypt (which is rather loose with it’s historicity, I realize). Suddenly the story clicked. What he heard only at church, he also heard at school. This vetted the story for him as actual, rather than “a made up fairy tale and untrue story” as he had previously thought.
Nathan loves the music at church, and hearing his sweet, pitchy little voice is a precious thing. It’s reminder that his story, and my story are not over. God with us is a work in progress.
Recently, when I thought he was ready to talk about it, I said, “Nathan, I noticed you are singing in church. How do you feel about God now?”
Softly, he said, “Well, I think it’s true. I believe in God now.”
“Did you learn about the Hebrews in school, like you did at church?” I asked.
“Yes. The Egyptians were real, and they had slaves,” he told me.
The story isn’t over. I don’t feel like Nathan has arrived somehow, but now his journey has new hope and new possibilities. He still needs to be nurtured spiritually. Don’t we all? He needs us to model God ways to him, the Fruit of the Spirit. He has never wanted to pray, and my hope is that he finds the comfort that comes with talking to God.
The invisible, but real, is a challenging concept for many of us, and Nathan’s very concrete ways of understanding the world–because of his autism–make it all the more important to be Jesus to him so that the reality of God is experience and learned in regular life. He’s not so different after all.
Who has best modeled God for you?