I must admit that this used to be the time of the year that I struggled with how to teach my child who has autism about the Resurrection. As Easter approached she sensed the anticipation. She could feel that there was something different in the days as we waited with wonder and expectation for Sunday morning. She understood the joy and even picked up on the traditional greeting, “He is risen!” and its response, “The Lord is risen indeed”. The bigger issue, for me, became how to make this real throughout the year? How do I make her feel and understand the enormity of the sacrifice made for her beyond Easter morning?
There are so many options available to us as modern day parents to teach our children, in a tangible way, about the truth of the Resurrection. Resurrection eggs, empty tomb cookies and rolls, and countless books written just for them. I used all of these when I served as a director of children’s ministries. All of those and so many other activities are perfect ways to share the Good News with children. Well…with typically functioning children. For a child with autism, sometimes these lessons get through but, more often than not, they fail to make the connection for a child who is more literal.
The answer came in the simplest way. Walking into pre-school every day we walked past a wall lined with crosses. She was charmed by each and every one. Every day she would pick a new one to stand in front of and just take in every little detail. And so I began to ask her what they were. She answered “cross” but wouldn’t answer any more questions. I continued to talk to her about Jesus, hoping that it was all sinking in and that she was feeling connected to an ancient truth that I felt powerless to make truly real to her. That her Savior had loved her so much, He had given His life in order to ransom hers.
Then one day, one beautiful day, we walked past the crosses. She stopped in front of one that depicted the life of Jesus. I watched as her eyes took in every little detail and I asked, “what is that?”. She answered, “cross”. I asked, “What does it mean?” and she answered “Jesus”. I told her that the cross means that Jesus loves us. And she repeated it to me. Over and over. “Jesus loves us. Jesus loves us. Jesus loves us.” I watched while it took hold in her heart.
Though I had known that God’s ways exceed all my expectations, in that moment I felt that truth become so real to me. I realized that God’s love was not something that I needed to push on my child. She already had a relationship with Him. He didn’t die on the cross only to ignore the needs of those who learn differently. My job was simply to place truth before her and to let God do the rest.