I have been observing the spiritual journey of my autistic son, Nathan, quite closely for the last three or four weeks. If you haven’t been following the posts about it, here, this is the short version of the backstory:
Nathan, as of a few months ago, professed to not believing in God. This is a change from his former beliefs. He now claims that God, the Bible, and the stories of Christianity are “unbelievable stories,” as he says. It’s fake. A fraud.
To me, it seemed like the perfect time to more closely explore spiritual formation (a.k.a. discipleship) and theology as it pertains to disability. Besides encouraging Nathan in his spiritual formation (no matter how messy or personally unsettling or uncomfortable), I’ve hoped to learn from him, and share my findings. This includes studying on the theology of disability, and documenting Nathan’s time of exploration, with respect for my son’s unique spiritual growth process and experience of the world. For my readers, I’ve hoped to encourage deeper thought and consideration about spiritual growth, and the nature of God.
Where things are now
My attention to Nathan’s beliefs and journey, and the recording of them have reached a blockade. Nathan has expressed that he does not want to be filmed, and wants to not speak about the subject. He’s not ready to go about things this way. I will respect this. His basic sentiment is emotional, and preferential, not logical or given to dialogue. So, I will to put this closer study (at least of him, in a personal way) on hold, until a time comes when it seems productive to pick up with it again. I’ll post about it, occasionally, as insights, changes, or advancements occur. This story is far from over.
I got up early this morning and went out on the porch with my coffee to enjoy the unseasonably mild morning weather and take in the sights of the creatures that are neighbors with us. We have a few nests, some very vocal birds, several rabbit families, and a very clever chipmunk who has constructed an elaborate series of tunnels that I suspect could be a secret lair. This morning I saw him enter and leave two different homes, scale a brick chimney, shoot into the roof gutter, and out of sight, maybe to the attic of my neighbor’s home. Clearly, he’s up to something.
I saw a mother rabbit and her bunny nibbling at the dewy clover. They were relaxed in their surroundings, and quite hungry. It made me think of one of my favorite children’s stories: The classic called The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. The bunny hopes to be free from his mother, and tells her all the ways he plans to runaway. The mother rabbit does not tell him stay, but rather shows her steadfast love for him. She accepts his wild heart. She comforts him. For every idea he shares about leaving, she has a plan to love him faithfully and reunite with him. This story was refered to in a theological way profoundly in a film I saw called Wit starring Emma Thompson. It’s a movie that changed me, and help me see God, better.
Wit was adapted from the play W;t, by Margaret Edson. ( In the context of the play, the semicolon refers to the recurring theme of the use of a semicolon versus a comma in one of John Donne’s Holy Sonnets.) Wit won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The main character, Vivan, a college English professor, is dying of ovarian cancer. At the end, Vivan’s admired, former-professor and mentor comes to visit while she is in town for her great-grandson’s birthday. She comforts her and offers to read to her a Donne sonnet. Vivian, scarcely conscious, declines. So instead, Dr Ashford reads from Margaret Wise Brown‘s The Runaway Bunny, which she had bought for her great-grandson. She remarks that it offers a lovely “allegory of the soul”: Wherever the soul tries to hide, God, comfortingly, will find it. (This section was taken from Wikipedia. Read it in full, here.)
God is our Mother Rabbit. For my son, I am a flesh and blood representation of God to him. I am his mother rabbit, and his is my beloved bunny.
I realize, even more thoroughly than I had realized before, that part of growing up includes the professions of and steps toward independence. Perhaps consistent love faithfulness are the most helpful things we can offer children who are not yet mature enough to make their own way in the world.
Thank you for coming along for this leg of the journey. Your thoughts or comments are quite welcome here.