Two days before Luke was to be baptized the pastor doing the honors told me about a dream she’d had. We worked together and I trusted God spoke to her this way so it didn’t feel weird. I say this because up to that point in my parenting journey I’d had plenty of people tell me they had a “word” about my kids. This really amounted to a way to “fix them”—as if they’re broken. That’s part of the ride when you have kids with special needs.
Pastor Marilyn’s message was entirely different. “Kären, I had what I think is a prophetic dream about Luke last night. He was abroad in the mission field teaching and preaching to large groups of people.”
“That’s hard to picture.”
“I know,” she said. “But the dream was so clear I think we can trust it.”
“He’d definitely have a powerful testimony to share.”
“Praise God,” she said without sounding one bit awkward.
Fifteen years later standing in my kitchen feeling sad, this dream was the last thing on my mind. The tree guys were on their way to remove the five elm trees that framed the farthest corner of our yard. They’d grown old and sick. My neighbors wanted them to go for years but I resisted because they were so stately. I loved looking into the canopy they made from my kitchen window. When large limbs started falling onto the walking path next to our house I knew I had to do something.
At breakfast Luke saw how sad I was and asked what was wrong. I explained the tree guys were on their way.
“I don’t know why I’m so emotional about it,” I said wiping my eyes. “I feel silly.”
“Don’t feel silly. Trees are an axis mundi.”
“An axis mundi—with all your study you don’t know what that is?”
“No, are you making that up.”
“Let me show you,” he says flashing his phone at me with an article he’d pulled up.
“You’re sad because trees, in almost all major world religions, represent the connection between heaven and earth.”
“Really,” I said.
“Yep. You have a spiritual connection to those trees without realizing it.”
“How did you ever learn that?” I asked.
“I do a lot of reading.”
“That’s a really great insight—thanks for sharing it,” I said smiling, but inside my heart sank a little.
He didn’t realize what a mixed bag of emotions this brought up for me. While most parents would be ecstatic their kid is reading versus out partying, I’m the mom worried about all this study. Not because study is bad who could fault that? The trouble is he’s studying things so outside the box it’s concerning.
To say he’s obsessed with self-help books is not just an understatement—it obscures the real issue which is that he’s desperate to be healed. To him life as a young adult with autism is a curse and I can’t say I blame him for feeling this way. The teen and young adult years have been some of the hardest for him.
Combine that with the crisis of faith many twenty-something’s go through and there’s heartbreak all around. He’s angry at God and all his “spokespeople” as he calls them. This means those of us closest to him have to be incredibly careful to not fall into that camp. Where I’d like to smack him over the head with my Bible I know that’s not the wisest course. Everyone has to find their own faith. For him to borrow mine or just blindly adhere to it won’t serve him in the long run. Wrestling with God is not a team sport and as much as I want to tap-in for him, I can’t.
A couple days after the trees were removed I went looking for some new ones to replace them. It was late in the season but I found one that felt just right—a Cimarron Ash. I chose it because of the gorgeous red color pop it will bring to the yard every fall. When I got to the register to pay for it a lone penny was sitting on the counter. It brought back to mind the conversation with Luke. Axis mundi I thought—man that kid is getting too smart.
When the tree was planted someone suggested I name it. I pressed my hand into the dirt around the base and the word “hope” bubbled up. Luke came to mind and I decided my new little tree represents perfectly what I know to be true. With my Prodigal son there’s still great hope. He was planted in rich soil and nurtured his whole life by people who’ve seen his potential. The roots are there. They haven’t died. They’re just struggling to find the truth in a way that makes sense to them.
Every tree weathers the seasons. His dark winter will in time give way to a rebirth and his faith will be his own. It will be richer, fuller, and so much more well-informed than mine. I don’t know if Pastor Marilyn was given a glimpse of the future or not. Only time will tell. But my hope doesn’t rest on that dream. It’s rooted in God’s refusal to give up on us even when we’ve given up on Him.