Have you ever communicated with someone who spoke another language? What if you lived with someone who never spoke your native tongue? What if you knew they understood some of what you said, but you weren’t sure how much? How would you nurture a relationship if you rarely understood their words?
And what if you were given the task of educating this individual?
This is my son.
Judah has been non-verbal for most of his life. Imagine at eight years of age, I tell him, “Judah, put your shoes on,” but he doesn’t know what I’m asking him to do. Lol…nearly everyday, I say, “Judah, you need a shirt. Go choose a shirt.” He still doesn’t know what I want. So, we walk to his room, and I point to the shirts hanging in his closet.
“Tchooz,” he echos as he yanks a shirt from the hanger. I help him put his shirt over his head. “Tchooz, tchooz,” he repeats the directive as though to burn it into his memory for tomorrow.
After twelve-and-a-half years, he’s picked up a few phrases and names for favorite requests like “popcorn…p_ease” or “chips” (that one is very clear!) His words aren’t perfect, but like a mommy can understand her toddler’s language, I can understand Judah’s –most of the time.
Eleven years ago, I learned how to communicate with Judah using P.E.C.S. (Picture Exchange Communication System) and gestures, like pointing. We’ve learned to read each other’s body language, which tells me more than words ever could! However, like many other moms, I continue to wonder how to communicate the Gospel with him. How do I share the importance of having a personal, one-on-one, intimate friendship with Almighty God?
I can teach him to memorize Scripture passages in sign language. We can sing songs with actions or using colors to relate the Gospel story. I can read stories, write little notes, affix posters to his wall, and completely surround Judah with all things God. But if the language barrier is too great, what am I left with to teach this boy of mine?
Two things: prayer and actions.
Prayer. A wise friend of mine once said, “At the intersection of our kids’ abilities and their sin nature lies the conundrum of parenting.” In Susan Macias’s book, Unceasing: A Parent’s Guide to Conquer Worry and Pray with Power , praying in faith according to God’s will is central. She clearly points out that prayer is not a “last ditch effort” or a fall back “gadget” when everything else has failed. It’s not magic or a repeated mantra. On page 7, she explains that…
“Prayer speaks God’s truth and promises personally OVER my child, not TO my child.
And ultimately, prayer focuses very little on me, my children, and our problems. Prayer focuses on the Mover and Maker of our lives.
Prayer is about God.
Prayer unleashes the power of the Lord in my family more than any other action. It overrides my failures. It surpasses my children’s weaknesses.”
When I realize the tasks and responsibilities I’ve been given, prayer is the foundation of everything. It’s my starting line, my finishing point, and everything mid-stream. That brings me to actions.
Actions. My father-in-law used to say, “I can see better than I can hear.” No, he wasn’t deaf! Actions speak louder than words.
- I can say one thing, but if I do another, my words turn mute. If I say nothing, my actions clearly communicate my thoughts. It’s not so much what I do; it’s how I do it.
- Actions are also expressed through voice inflections. How will I address Judah when he’s emptied three never-been-opened bottles of body wash? (So grateful for Dollar General!)
- What tone do I use after he manages to make it look like the floor hasn’t been swept in weeks with popcorn, chips, and remnants of a pasta dinner –right after I’ve mopped?
- How do I show him Christ?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” ~Galatians 5:22-23
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” ~1 Corinthians 13:4-7
As I ponder all this, I’m beginning to realize that loving both my sons by living the Gospel is much the same as serving those around me –around us. This applies to everyone: family, friends, acquaintances, even strangers. Christ’s hands embrace others when we reach out. His love is communicated when we serve. Words become the punctuation to what we do when they align with each other.
All we do, should point to Christ.
The results belong to Him.
Susan Macias’ website: Building Courage, Hope, and Strength for Women to Thrive
You can find Susan’s book on Amazon or use this link for her Kindle version: