Our church has one Sunday a year where the kids are the focus of the congregation’s main meeting, Sacrament meeting. It is called the Primary Program and it is always full of tender testimonies and beautiful children’s singing and a few spontaneous kid funnies. I have looked forward to this meeting every year, even when I was a kid!
Right after Justin got his diagnosis of Autism, when he was almost 4 years old, we moved to a new state in search of better services for him and a better lifestyle for our little family. I remember sitting close to the front row for the Primary Program that year, very excited to hear all the children….and then I looked at one of the mom’s faces as she smiled proudly as her son bravely walked to the pulpit in front of the congregation and said his part. Her tender smile was so touching and then my heart sank as I wondered what our future with Justin would hold, and whether he would ever be able to participate in the Primary Program….or any other things I had dreamed about. I sat for the rest of the meeting paralyzed with my worries and fears and with tears streaming down my face. I felt so scared and alone in our journey with Justin and Autism.
Now fast forward 6 years to today. This is not a story of full recovery from Autism or a miracle of Justin speaking spontaneously, but it is the sweetest miracle story I know!! It didn’t start out to be a good day, by any means. Justin woke up mad and had several meltdowns all morning. He tried to undo my husband’s white church shirt which we thought was most certainly a sign that he wanted him to change his clothes and not go take him to church today!! We took all the kids to church anyway and Justin went in to the building, and promptly had a pretty severe meltdown. He started taking off his own clothes(we should have put him in more comfy clothes today—our bad!!) in the foyer and my husband and I looked at each other and agreed—the Primary Program wasn’t happening for him today, and that was okay!!
He had made it through two practices already. And I am always in awe at the spirit of love I can feel from all the kids in Primary and their leaders when Justin is around. At one of the practices, they waited for him to come in from the hallway and when he entered the room and walked up to the pulpit—there was complete silence. Not an awkward silence, but the silence of anticipation of something great. I felt like every kid was holding their breath and thinking, “You can do it Justin!” That triumphant, supportive spirit is something I know that Justin can feel. And my husband prompted him word for word through his part. And as soon as he finished, everyone sighed with a smile of pride—their Justin did it!!
Once we realized Justin wasn’t going to make it, my husband took him to the car to watch a movie while I stayed to hear my daughter. Justin had the first line of the program, and as the time got closer I decided to go to the car and see if he wanted to give it a try. My husband told me he had already tried to bring him back into the building, and he melted again!! I got his attention and asked him if he wanted to say his part in the microphone. He looked at me and said, “Yes.” So we decided it wouldn’t hurt to try it again. We anxiously waited outside the chapel doors and then as soon as all the other Primary children were seated we motioned for Justin to come to the doors. He ran the other direction and squealed. My husband went over and picked him up and he started laughing. That’s when we knew this might actually work out. He carried him through the doors to the chapel and directly onto the stand and then he walked up to the pulpit and being prompted by my husband word for word said his part into the microphone, “I-KNOW-THAT-I-AM-A-CHILD-OF-GOD.” And then he smiled, and walked out of the chapel.
He didn’t smile for a picture because he was too busy eating his Swedish Fish as a reward—he deserved it!!
I am always so proud of Justin for how hard he tries every day to combat so many obstacles that challenge him. He is such a great example to me and shows me such great determination. I know that he knows he is a child of God. He is not any less of a child of God than anyone else on this Earth. It is such a simple phrase, but it completely puts into perspective why we are here in this life and reminds me that our day-to-day challenges are so temporal. I am so grateful for that pristine moment of clarity today from hearing Justin’s testimony. I love you with all my heart buddy!!