Eyeing her son, James, nervously, Anne tried to relax as the church service started.
“Please be good!” Anne silently implored her nine-year old son. As he began to slightly rock his body, Anne placed a warning hand on his thigh.
Anne needed to be in church. For months now, she had felt the voice of God calling her, pleading with her to return to the Father. Anne knew where she belonged and to Whom she belonged and her heart yearned to fellowship with other believers as she found her way back.
But there was James, afflicted with autism. As Anne kept an eye on him, hoping he would be calm and not have an outburst today, she reflected on the years that had brought her to the place she was today. Anne was a young, single mother when she realized that something wasn’t quite “right” with James. Already adrift from the Lord, Anne felt her remaining faith slip away with James’ diagnosis. The next few years were spent maintaining a balance between work and finding the best therapies for James. Mothering alone was tough enough, but mothering a child locked inside his own mind was nearly impossible at times. Sometimes Anne felt as though she would crumble beneath the weight of all she bore.
But yet, when she thought she could bear no more, she heard the voice of the One Who had borne it all. And slowly, Anne crept toward the Voice. Eventually, her creeping turned to running and she leapt into the lap of the great Comforter.
And now Anne needed a church. But she wasn’t the only one. Anne reasoned that if she needed Jesus, then how much more James must need Him, too. Her son wasn’t unintelligent. When he was calm, he could be quite reasonable. Surely, he could still be taught those needed truths.
“A-a-gh” James began to make a guttural sound of distress in his throat. Anne looked around for the nearest exit. If James did have an outburst, she needed to get him out of the service as quickly as possible.
They had already tried two other churches. The last time, an aged deacon had helplessly tried to explain to Anne, “It’s not that we don’t appreciate you coming to our services. But your boy -- we just can’t give him what he needs here.” Anne and James had been quietly, if kindly, kicked out.
As James’ rocking increased, Anne felt the old despair wash over her. Any moment now, James would erupt and no doubt, they would be asked to leave. Only this time, there wasn’t anywhere else to go.
Anne tugged on her son’s arm and urged him to stand. Her heart aching, she led him quietly out of the auditorium before a full outburst could occur.
Was there no place for James? Was there no place for his mother?
In the foyer, Anne coaxed James’ arms into his coat.
Anne turned. A pleasant-looking, middle-aged woman was scurrying her direction.
“I’m sorry,” the woman began, “But I couldn’t help but notice you leaving the auditorium.” She smiled and paused.
“I have a granddaughter with autism,” she continued simply. The kindness emanating from the unknown woman seemed to wrap its way around Anne. It was so real that she could nearly feel it.
“The thing is…” the woman paused, “I know it’s difficult. And I would like to help.”
Anne smiled, although she couldn’t imagine what kind of help this woman could offer. Help was very hard to find when it came to dealing with James.
“I could take your son for you while you attend church,” the woman offered. “I know how it is for my son and his wife. They take turns attending church so that someone can stay home with my granddaughter. But I was thinking that maybe I could take your boy into another room while you attend church and maybe he and I could have our own service.”
Anne smiled while she tried to think of a nice way to turn the woman down. She didn’t want to foist her son onto this kind woman. But yet…
Hope sprung up in Anne’s breast. Could this possibly work?
“Please?” the woman asked and Anne found herself nodding her head. And to her amazement, James willingly took the woman’s hand and walked away.
A smile crept across Anne‘s face. Today she had not only heard the voice of God, but she had seen Him, too.
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