Seeing God’s Image in Autism


Over the course of my lifetime I have spent only a matter of a few hours with those living with autism but I continue to be touched by their stories, accounts and cries. Just a few weeks ago I spent time at an educational center for autistic students in India and left challenged and blessed. The more I experience and learn the more I recognize the brilliance of God’s truth. I know very little about the disorder of autism, likewise I won’t pretend to be an expert in this post, but the one thing I do know is that there is beauty in every person and my brothers and sisters with autism who are filled with God’s image, are beautiful expressions of God’s goodness.

Here are some fundamental questions relating to the disorder of autism that I have sought to find answers for in Scripture:

Is autism God’s “mistake”?

Many of us would say that we know this to be untrue, but do our actions line up with our convictions?

“Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks.” 1 Timothy 4:4.

A disability is not a “malfunction” in God’s creation powers. In fact, the Bible actually portrays something of the opposite.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalms 139:13-14

Autism does not surprise God. In fact, it is a feature of what it means to be beautifully and wonderfully made. God knows, He plans and He creates; and all are His unique and brilliant expression of life in His image.

Does having autism make it harder to believe in God?

I can’t know for certain the answer to this question (this article states it is) but I do know for sure that it does not make it impossible. I personally know of many individuals who are autistic and have surrendered their lives to Christ.

In our attempts to label their social and communicative differences I believe we often dismiss the mental capacity for individuals with autism to grasp the fullness of God. It’s here we must remember the Scriptural promises of God:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Not only is there something in the heart of every man that connects to eternity, but God has not ceased to reveal Himself to humans through other unique ways as well.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” Romans 1:19

Individuals with autism may not relate or understand God through the same rationale that non-autistic individuals do but there is certainly no lack of capacity to personally know their Creator. May we learn to celebrate and offer the gift of love and life to all individuals no matter their ability to communicate back to us.

Does autism restrict a person’s ability to succeed?

The natural instinct for viewing people with disabilities is to look at what they can’t do. In doing so we often focus on the disability and not the ability.

I went to university with a student named Ian. He has autism and was in my Early Modern Russia class. I didn’t know Ian and never took the time to try to. That’s my fault. But his writing skills I now realize are quite good. His blog is insightful and his message is powerful. Here is an excerpt from a blog post:

“Way long ago in another time, I was lost and adrift, though I wasn’t far from shore. I could see the shore, but nobody on shore could see me. One day I tried my best (again) to get someone’s attention and, wonder of wonders, someone noticed me. She wasn’t sure that I was there, but she thought that she saw somebody. While she was searching for me, people who had found others who were lost like me showed my parents a way to find me. My parents may never have listened except for she who had seen glimpses of me and had tried to show them where I was. They did listen, however, and consequently they searched for me as they were instructed to do. I was found …” [1]

A quick glance at Ian’s website shows that Ian has written articles, columns, blogs, poetry and been a contributor on numerous websites. Ian has given a voice to the “voiceless” and challenges our society to see the individuals behind the disorder. Though the potential may be sometimes hidden the capability to succeed and contribute to our society is ever present.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Here is a good article that speaks to this truth.

Made to Glorify the Creator

Through modern science researchers are slowly learning more and more about the disorder of autism. For that I am thankful. Though I don’t understand the complexities of the brain and body I am blessed to know that God does. He builds and creates for His glory, and nothing stamped with His image is ever less than immeasurably valuable.

I find it only fitting to end with this explanation from Elizabeth Prata, an exceptionally gifted writer who was born with a form of autism:

“My LORD made me. The same hand that knitted me together, autistic brain and all, also stretched out the universe. Since He made me, and all that He does is Good, then it must be good that I am the way I am. The only thing that remains is to revel in His goodness and seek ways to exalt and honor Him.

Who am I to question His knitting of me? He put me on this earth, HIS earth, to enjoy His creation, to live and develop talents, and at His timing to be brought into the Kingdom a repentant sinner so as to glorify Him by the gifts He gave me. It does not matter who is male or female, who is young or old, who is gifted with mercy or who is gifted with teaching. It does not matter who is autistic, who is a paraplegic, who uses a cane to walk into church and who bounds up the steps with energy. It does not matter who was saved young and who was saved old.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus…” (Galatians 3:28).

In Christ, I am not autistic. The only label that eternally matters is that I am called a child of the Most High God. What a glorious label!” [2]

To God be the glory for all that He has created!

[1] Ian Wetherbee, Listen – I am in here! http://ianwetherbee.com/wetherblog/index.php
[2] Elizabeth Prata, The Autistic Christian part 3 http://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-autistic-christian-part-3.html
http://www.autreat.com/dont_mourn.html
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-hidden-potential-of-autistic-kids/
By | 2015-04-16T05:30:31+00:00 April 16th, 2015|Categories: In His Image, Learn and Apply|Tags: , |

About the Author:

John Warden is Reconciled World’s global staff pastor and the facilitator for 2:10. He holds a Masters of Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has more than fifteen years of ministry experience. He lives in Sioux Falls, SD with his wife and two daughters. You can contact him directly at johnw@reconciledworld.org.

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