Love in the Wait
Jonathan’s beautiful brown eyes sparkled today. Golden late afternoon rays dappled the front porch where he sat watching me help with our dog Tosca’s much-needed clip and wash. It’s hot, so I kneel beside his comfy blue adirondack chair to share my ice-cold coconut La Croix. He gulps some, I gulp some. I think he likes the sensation of cool bubbly stuff sliding down his throat, because a smile plays around his lips. And he looks, I mean looks like he knows I’m there, straight into my eyes. Instantly, I’m cooing (in that silly, high, who-cares-who’s-listening Mommy voice) “Jonathan, that’s such a pretty smile!” “Mommy loves that smile.” “You make Mommy so happy when you smile!” I babble on, wooing, willing the moment to last. Because it’s so rare. Jesus is here in technicolor. With Jonathan and me in that fleeting moment of pure love more precious for the wait. *
He’s teaching me to love in the wait. To hope in the wait. The wait when Jonathan seems expressionless and unresponsive. When he turns his face away, no matter how much I coo or put my face in front of his or stroke his hand. When he looks at the pattern on my shirt or scarf rather than in my eyes. Even armed with knowledge that the lack of response to social and emotional cues is typical of autism spectrum behavior, that the low muscle tone of Jonathan’s Down syndrome is a contributor, it used to sink me.
I can’t even say exactly when the change began... It’s as if the Holy Spirit began whispering to me. “My love for you is unconditional.” Yes, Lord. Thank you. “Continually poured out even on days or weeks when your busyness and concerns distract you from even looking in my direction.” Ouch, Lord. “The very flowers you love so much are a reminder of my care.” “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.” James 1:17
God’s transformative love doesn’t depend on my perfect attention to Him. Patiently he keeps turning my eyes in the right direction until I see what He wants me to see. Know what He wants me to know. Why should it be different for Jonathan? I can plant good seeds knowing that God will bring the harvest He desires. In Jonathan and in me. My faith is rising, from a place of discouragement and feeling as if my presence didn’t matter to Jonathan, to knowing it does, even on days when his eyes won’t meet mine. When there’s no smile.
To love in the wait, is to love in faith.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). My journey to Jesus is filled with jumps, bumps and halts. Looking on the surface, God would see a follower often distracted by the cares of this life. Yet he never stops planting the seeds, pouring out the love He knows will bear fruit in due time. Faith is rising up. The day to day conversation, training, stimulation we pour into Jonathan with wonderful teachers and helpers to support us does bear fruit. From time to time we see it - a new skill, a smile, calmness. And on the days we don’t, I’m learning to love in the wait.
To love in the wait is to know God’s presence.
Don’t get me wrong. Every moment isn’t filled with goosebumps. But there is a peace and sense of God’s love and presence when I yield to His way. Which makes sense. Someday, Jesus will say, “whatever you did for one of the least of these...you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). When I love and serve Jonathan, I’m loving Jesus. His spirit of love enables me and blesses me.
To love in the wait is to treasure Jonathan for who he is right now.
The way he puts his hand in mine whenever we walk together. It’s still so soft and squeezy. I want simple trust like that, Jesus. Or leaning into me with his body weight when we sit together. (I get to be his “body pillow” while he watches his favorite movie, Fantasia.)To take pleasure in his pleasure even when he’s oblivious to me - the splashing and“ee-ing” celebration at the pool, or listening intently to music. Putting on his pants and socks by himself (“Good job, Jonathan!”) Loving in the wait opens my eyes to the blessings right in front of me, as I wait and hope for others in the future.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV)