Our son, Liam, has autism. We’re fortunate that he’s very high-functioning, and he’s smart. He’s only five, but he’s been reading for almost two years, reads at a second grade level, and can do simple math problems.
He started Kindergarten two weeks ago, and while he’s doing really well in school, our home life has been pretty stressful as he adjusts to a new routine and new people.
This past Saturday, at the end of another stressful week and a really, fantastically bad morning, we had family over for lunch. Jeff’s mom and her friend Dale joined us for a few minutes as well, and while my dad and Dale talked to each other, Liam came over to the table and grabbed a piece of cheese to give to Dale.
Ok, this will sound cute and probably make you want to say, “Aww, what a sweet kid!” Liam likes to give people gifts, whether they want them or not. As Liam was walking to the table to get the cheese, Dale was telling Liam that he was Ok and didn’t need a piece of cheese. Jeff and I are used to Liam forcing things on us and trying to tell him not to do so, but other people aren’t. Part of raising a child with autism is teaching them how to socialize appropriately, which is why we’re so sensitive when he tries to force things on people. So Jeff asked him why he was getting the cheese, and Liam said, “Dale wants a piece of cheese.” I asked Liam if Dale had told him to get him some cheese, and Liam looked me right in the eyes and lied: “Yes.”
Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad I have a child who is generous and would share his lunch with anyone. It makes me smile when he wraps up his favorite stuffed animals in his favorite blanket and gives them to me as presents. But it gets frustrating when I’m trying to eat my own food and he forces a french fry in my face. This probably sounds ungrateful and bitchy, but I don’t mean to. I do want to convey some of the frustration people with autistic children sometimes feel.
Sunday I was thinking about that particular scene as we went to pick Liam up from my parents. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but what if Liam is showing his potential spiritual gifts?
Is it possible for non-Christians to show potential spiritual gifts before they become Christians?
When I was 16, I started teaching Sunday School at my church. I wasn’t a Christian at the time, but I was very close to becoming one. There was a need for a teacher for the third and fourth grade class, and I decided to fill that need. I wasn’t the best Sunday School teacher in the world, and some of my lessons were some of the dumbest lessons in the world, but I can’t deny that I felt drawn to that position.
Several years later, after becoming a Christian, I learned that teaching is one of my spiritual gifts.
Before anyone gets up in arms, let me confirm that I know people don’t truly have spiritual gifts until they have a relationship with Christ; it’s impossible for it to be any other way, because the Holy Spirit doesn’t inhabit us until we have that relationship. And with the more “supernatural” gifts, it really wouldn’t make sense. How could one prophesy without knowing the Lord? How could one speak in the tongues of angels without knowing the Creator of those angels? How could one work miracles without the power of the Miracle Worker Himself?
But there are other gifts, like administration, teaching, and hospitality, that are just things that people do every day. Every day, people show hospitality. People teach and administer every day. But that doesn’t mean they are using their gifts.
I believe, and there are others who think this same thing (Rick Warren, for one, says as much in The Purpose Driven Life), that God gives us spiritual gifts according to the personalities He gave us. Are we introverted or extroverted? Always bubbly or usually mellow? Optimist? Pessimist? So is it possible that the gifts we will have after we become Christians show up from time to time before we become Christians?
I think it’s possible. And I think it’s possible that Liam is showing signs of hospitality, even at the age of five.
What do you think? Leave comments, and let’s talk about this.