I have been working with a nonverbal autistic student for two years, and the experience has been quite the enigma. Some days were the hardest days of my life, while others were rewarding and deeply satisfying, both spiritually and emotionally. I have also learned some of my greatest lessons while working with her. Such as how to love someone who attacks you everyday, how to hold in things and hold back when you’d rather respond or react. I have learned how to act in wisdom instead of in the flesh. All of these truths are priceless to me in my walk with the Lord as He molds me, and I feel very blessed to have learned them, even though they came at a high price. A painful price. A terrible price. But a necessary cost to become more like Christ.
The lesson that has been heavily on my heart the last few days, however, is one I learned within my first six months working with her. A violent six months; she literally beat me up everyday. When I took over as her para because she was moving up into the high school, I was introduced to her and given the practical instructions of working with her. Mind you, I don’t have experience in special education. It was just my job. You know, the necessary thing you only do because you feel the need to eat. In truth, this job is so far from the dreams in my heart, being there is a constant act of submission. I know God put me there. I struggle most days.
Anyway, back to the lesson. She was beating me up everyday, and I couldn’t for the life of my figure out why. Then it happened one day: someone asked me how my day was going, seeing my haggard look, and I began to tell them how awful she was being and I looked over at her to relay my exasperation, only to catch her rolling her eyes and snarling at me. And like a fist to the face, it hit me: I have disrespected her everyday since the beginning by talking about her like she’s not even there.
I had taken the cue from her former para, been told her mentality was that of a toddler, and completely disregarded the person stuck inside her disorder. I had discussed her dysfunction everyday with coworkers like we were sharing recipes, right in front of her with no regard to her feelings. No wonder she was beating me up everyday! She couldn’t stand me! If someone was walking on my heart everyday, I’d react in much the same way.
From the day on, I have kept a proverbial hand over my mouth and treated this girl like a person capable of understanding and feelings, and the behaviors have become so minimal, when they happen, I am completely caught off guard. Not to mention that the really extreme behaviors such as head butting and screaming have stopped completely. This poor girl has put up with rude people her entire life acting like she’s stupid. Clearly, she is anything but.
I’ve been thinking about this life lesson in relation to how we treat God. How we talk about Him like He’s not in the room. How we disrespect Him like we disrespect others when we talk behind their backs, hoping they never find out. I’m so convicted. How about the mockery we make of His timing when we’re unhappy with the way He’s handling things? Or the hateful things we say when we don’t understand what He’s doing? Or the way we question His authority in the affairs of this life? I’m not too proud to admit I’m guilty. In fact, I’m not proud at all. I’m deeply ashamed at the way I treat my Father. The way I treat my Husband. The way I treat my Best Friend. I’ve spent the last year of my life straining to hear His voice and I wonder, would I hear more of Him if I disrespected Him less? If I held my tongue and loved Him enough to trust Him with my life?
Jesus, I’m sorry.