I think that Gates was almost three when I truly began to realize that something was not quite right. He'd hit all of the normal developmental milestones right up until it came to talking. And there he stuck. Our communication consisted of one word statements. Tractor. Ball. Milk. I waited and waited for the burst of language to come. I blamed myself for not talking to him more, for putting him in an infant daycare where the husband was partially deaf, for not being proactive enough in developing language. Car. Truck. Book.
He had amazed us shortly after turning two by being able to name every letter of the alphabet. "My child is a genious!" I thought. Juice. Grandpa. Kitty. Slowly his vocabulary grew and he expanded to short sentences of several words. But he wasn't communicating with me. There was no give and take.
His vocabulary continued to grow, but so did my sadness at not being able to truly communicate with him. I talked to him and it was as if he didn't understand at all. At age four I finally took him to be evaluated.
"He meets the criteria for being developmentally delayed in receptive language," they said. "He is also significantly delayed in his gross motor skills."
"No," I thought, "not my child. He could say the alphabet when he was two. He has a great vocabulary." Did he really need special services to help him? Sometimes as parents we beach our boat on the vanishing sandbar of denial, knowing it is eroding beneath us, but not willing to launch ourselves into a sea of desperation.
Eventually I accepted it; I enrolled him in the early childhood education program, speech and occupational therapy. And one day we had a conversation. Not just me talking at him, but him responding as well. Four years later we know he has Aspergers Syndrome, we know that social communication will always be a struggle for him. He can fill your ears with incredible repetitions of facts, questions, rambling while failing to really connect as a person. But for every step he takes in learning to connect, we are right there, waiting, delighted, rejoicing at his efforts.
Sometimes we approach God as if we had Aspergers. We have memorized incredible amounts of facts about him, we can talk about him ad nauseum, we can talk AT him. But we stop short of the give and take of true communication. Communication. Communion. Combined.
And God waits. He waits through the developmental stages of our early faith, when we are exploring this world of "Christianity". He waits as we mature, as we develop a bigger vocabulary to talk about him. He waits as we learn words like "Exegisis," "Dispensationalism," "Calvinism."
Sometimes we stay there, content with our impressive knowledge, our ability to talk about God, even our ability to ask the deep theological questions which we rarely have the patience to wait for the answers on.
But sometimes within our Aspie little selves is that desire to make a connection, the understanding that communication is more than words. Sometimes we look God square in the face and say "I love you." Sometimes we have the patience to stick around for him to answer back. Sometimes we listen. Sometimes we reach out. Connection. Communion. Worship.