His face was covered in dirt, picked up from an asphalt blacktop scattered with children. Tear stains had become smudges from an unwavering determination to clear the evidence of his frantic emotions. Tossing and turning, he rolled across that blacktop, unaware that he was clearing hopscotch boards and pausing basketball games.
I tried with my words to console him. Tried to speak above the cries. But he could not hear. His panic overtook him and there was no one, there was nothing. Nothing but the grief. Nothing but the loss.
Finally, exhaustion overtook his 6-year-old frame. For the first time in 45 minutes he saw me there. His sad, red eyes focused on me and I placed my hand on his cheek. “It’s okay,” I whispered, “I have it.” A paper, a simple drawing to you and me. To him, his life in that moment, everything he had worked for. He would have known much sooner that the artwork was safe had he been able to listen. But he had to wrestle, he had to test, he had to find out how far he could fight. And when he could not fight any longer, he became still. And only then he could hear, only then he could see.
How many times have I come to the feet of the Lord, my face dirty and tearstained, bruises and scrapes on my heart? To finally hear. To finally listen. See, He already knows what I learned that day. I must stop wrestling, I must stop fighting before I can hear His voice. He must wait until I stop rolling around on the blacktop so that my eyes can focus, so that I can see that He’s been there the whole time. And it hurts Him to watch as I wrestle to sheer exhaustion, but He knows He must wait. And He is there, ready, to whisper truth and pick up the battle from where I left off.
Oh the things I could tell you, the things I learned from the ones who couldn’t speak.
[I worked for two years with children with severe autism, most of which were nonverbal.]