Like many kids with Autism, Byron has a hard time believing things that are seemingly illogical or abstract. Religion in general is a difficult concept for him to understand and study because it asks him to have faith in things he can’t use his senses to confirm.
“Mom”, he whispered to me on Easter morning, “you do realize that people don’t come back from the dead?”
“Yes, you’re right, but Jesus was special. He was God’s Son. You just have to believe He rose from the dead and know in your heart it’s true,” was my answer. His quick response back was “Mom, you know, your heart is just a muscle….?”
One Sunday morning after his church school class his teacher came to me with the news that Byron had been acting out during the lesson and said some totally inappropriate things. This wasn’t the first time he had behaved in such a way, but my husband and I decided that instead of the usual punishment of no computer or television or video games we would try a new tactic. We told him he needed to talk to God a little more, so it would be his job to say our family’s grace at the dinner table for the next week.
You would have thought we were torturing him with instruments from the Inquisition! He spent the rest of the day informing me and everyone else that there was no way he would talk to God. “You can’t make me say grace” became the mantra of the afternoon. “I won’t do it” he would mutter under his breath every few minutes. “Mom, that’s not fair” was shouted out at regular intervals.
As luck would have it my in-laws were visiting from out-of-state and we had planned a dinner that just happened to be one of Byron’s favorites! The smell of ham, au gratin potatoes and crescent rolls in the oven had all of us anticipating the food, but not necessarily the moments that would precede our meal. Soon I announced that everything was almost ready so it was time to wash up and sit down.
Byron stomped into the dining room and sat slouched in his seat while the rest of us found our chairs. I had spoken with my husband ahead of time about how I would remove Byron from the table and take him to his bedroom if he refused to follow our request. It was with a sinking feeling that I asked Byron to bless our table. Nothing happened for a moment. Then another moment passed and the hush stretched even longer. Just as I opened my mouth to speak we heard a loud noise.
“Bbbrrrrriiing!” Puzzled silence filled the room.
This telephone-like noise was coming from Byron, whose eyes were closed tight and whose face was scrunched up!
I peeped questioningly at my husband and at my confused in-laws. Suddenly, Byron began speaking in a deep, formal, monotone voice.
“Hello. You have reached God’s answering machine. He is not available to listen to your prayers right now, but leave a message and He will get back to you later.” This was followed by a long pause.
Another moment of silence filled the room as I saw my mother-in law’s shoulders begin shaking with silent laughter and my husband’s eyes rolling toward the ceiling.
“Dear God”, said Byron, “bless all this food and bless my family too. Amen and goodbye.” He quickly opened his eyes and looked up at me. “Mom” he said, “I didn’t talk to God”.
We looked at each other for a moment and I saw the confusion and anger leave his face. “I’m sure he’ll get the message” I said, “and you can catch him tomorrow.” “OK” he said, secure in the knowledge that God would be there for him whenever he was ready to talk and no matter what he done.
The rest of the week Byron’s graces were wonderfully reflective and inspiring, as well as thankful and unconventional! Byron might not have been ready to talk to God on that Sunday evening, but he knew God would get the message and appreciate that some kids need a little extra time and understanding when it comes to prayer and all the mysteries of faith. Byron is truly our blessing and we thank God every day for him and his quirky observations and interpretations of life!
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.