Thursday, October 28, 2010

If it ain’t broke

One of my classes is a Special Education class on Autism Spectrum Disorders. It is a fascinating class for me because it is out of my department so I am in class with people working on different degrees. It also includes virtually no stats; right now that is a big plus.

Autism is tough to nail down. We typically think of the child who is a non-communicator, calming himself down with repetitive motion or a savant who can perfectly play a piano piece after hearing it only once. But, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can also include the child with weak social skills who constantly reads and talks about one particular topic as well as a whole host of symptoms somewhere in-between these two extremes. The first part of the course covered a long list of characteristics so now I have a hammer that says ASD and every problem I see is a nail. I also find myself worrying that my lack of enthusiasm for social situations means I might be afflicted, as well. How on earth do medical college students make it through school without diagnosing themselves with every illness they study?

There is an interesting debate in the world of autism, including those with milder forms as well as parents with children severely affected. One group wants a cure and the other insists they don't need to be fixed. Depending on the type of autism and its severity a child can be disabled or merely different. For those who work with such children it can be a challenge to identify which skills need work. Certainly a child needs to be able to communicate with other people, but do they all have to have the same level of social skills? Sometimes something viewed as a disability can actually be an ability in a different setting. I remember speaking with a friend who told me her husband had dyslexia but that it was an asset on his job because he could create a mirror image as a tool and die maker. If we "cure" every symptom of autism, will we lose some gifts as a result? Maybe some characteristics of autism do not indicate brokenness.

The struggle with the difference between what is different and what is broken can creep into my faith life, too. I agonize over my looks, my age, my style of dress, gray hair, weight or whether or not my peers think my opinion is valuable, or if my students think I am a good instructor. These are not things worth my worry as they are differences, not brokenness.

What is broken in my life? My worry over differences is a sign of a lack of trust and that is brokenness. My daily, hourly, minute by minute sins are a sign of my brokenness. My misdirected time and attention toward my petty problems and away from God's word, His work and His people, is a sign of my brokenness.

These are the things for which I need a cure.

But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him. Numbers 15:30-31 ESV

We sin, we doubt, we neglect, and in so doing we create our own brokenness. God our Father picks up the pieces of our brokenness; the saving act of Jesus in His death and resurrection restores wholeness; the Spirit grants understanding allowing us to worship God with a whole heart.

When our brokenness meets God's mercy and forgiveness our differences no longer matter. We are His and we are whole.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved

In him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. Ephesians 1: 3-10 ESV

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