A Mother’s Cry: Can my Disabled Child Ever Become a Christian?

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It’s Easter Sunday, the very centre of my beliefs as a Christian, that my Lord and Saviour not only died for me on a cross to carry my sin, but he rose again on the third day to beat death once and for all to enable me (and everyone else who believes) to have eternal life.

I sat in church today and heard the gospel message preached with my beautiful children beside me, just the same as my parents did the generation before. I never tire of hearing the message of Jesus crucified and at 15 it impacted me personally on such a level my life has been rooted and grounded in my faith ever since.

Yet here I am faced with a massive question that has caused me to question my faith in a way I never ever expected: if he wanted to, could my disabled son ever become a Christian?

Why would I ask this? Well every tract I have ever read (there have been hundreds), every gospel message I have heard preached (there have been many) and every evangelist I have listened to have all taught a way to salvation that is fundamentally impossible for my child to ever achieve.

img_1145-1This is Isaac. He is, like everyone of us, made in the image of God. He is the most beautiful and incredible gift ever given to me. He is a true miracle having been prayed for and believed for against all odds. I was given medically less than 1% chance of ever having children yet after ten years of infertility God blessed me with not one, but two, babies. Isaac was the first born of twins. He has soft dark brown hair, hazel eyes that shine light and sparkle with life even if one of them doesn’t work and the other hides a tumour on its optic nerve. He makes noises, though at 9 and a half none of these noises form words that you and I can distinguish. He has severe autism. He has severe learning difficulties. He is epileptic. He has a brain tumour that means he will forever function as a very young child, most likely no more than aged 2 to 3 years.

So when I hear today’s gospel message once again I am crying, not only because the story of my Saviour always touches the very core of my being but because I know how the service will end and I can’t help wondering…

Can my disabled child ever be saved?

You see the way of salvation in the Bible is clear. It is based on such well known and readily quoted verses of so many believers: Romans chapter 10 and verse 9; “That if you confess with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I believe that.

But what if someone has such significant learning difficulties they will never understand and they can not speak their own name let alone say ‘Jesus is Lord’. What happens then?

Then there’s the famous one in John chapter 3 and verse 16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I believe that too.

But what about those who are cognitively unable to believe?

I could go on and talk about sin, baptism, the work of the cross, bridging the gap between God and man and all sorts of things that preachers and tracts talk about. Not one of these things will ever be understood by my son.

If he can’t understand the story can he ever believe in God?

He is never going to raise his hand at an alter call. He will never go forward for prayer to turn his life around, he will never hold a microphone and testify to how he was once an addict and now he is a Christian.

The fact of life is, for my son, and so many others, we need to see salvation in a different way.

Maybe I am tearing up the theology books here, maybe I am shaking traditions, but I believe my baby boy will always be saved. He will never be the lost sheep that the Shepherd longed to find. He will never be the prodigal son. He will never sin. The acts of the sinful nature (according to Galatians chapter 5 verses 19-20) are sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like…one thing I can category say is that my son will never do these.

He embodies innocence. As Psalm 139 says he is fearfully and wonderfully made. Like us all he was made in the image of God. But unlike us, he can not choose to sin, neither can he choose to believe.

He can flap as we sing praises, he can make a joyful noise, he can rest in the presence of God. He can feel peace, experience joy and love deeply. I believe he can know God in his Spirit even if his mind and body don’t function as well as we would all like.

I believe he is in the palm of Gods hand.

I believe in grace that a loving God has searched my son and knows his heart, that he is familiar with all his ways. He alone created his inmost being.

God has this covered.

Can my son ever get saved when he can’t believe and confess like every preacher and tract says he has to?

I can’t quote you scripture but my mother’s heart cries out to a God who hears my prayers and is carrying my son both now and forever.

That’s my mother’s cry.

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23 thoughts on “A Mother’s Cry: Can my Disabled Child Ever Become a Christian?

  1. Mama your boy has eternity in his heart. He may not respond like the text books say he must, his response is a heart connected one. His heart connects on a level we can only hope to attain. Mama because of the Godly influence you are, your son knows Jesus. Be assured.

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  2. Beautifully expressed.God does have us in the palm of his hand, and his ways are not our ways-Isaac,Pearl and friends understand about God,of that I’m sure.In fact when I am struggling with faith, which I do daily I feel Pearl has a faith and understanding which I’m not able to achieve-can’t explain that quickly in a reply.Also any one that disagrees with you in terms of confession would be going back to that medieval idea that babies cannot be saved so will all be in purgatory waiting for something-that sounds like a very human idea indeed, and would not be part of any Theology I would be interested in allying myself too.Thank you for expressing these things about your faith so eloquently Miriam.

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  3. A friend has put in awareness of Grant mackaskill https://www.abdn.ac.uk/sdhp/divinity-religious-studies/profiles/grant.macaskill
    He had just founded a whole unit with this as it’s base and a friend of mine wrote her masters dissertation on this very subject.
    However, as a Christian and church leader and a mum of a daughter with autism I am of full assurance that my girlie will know and does know God in a profound way that I can only dream of. The verses often quoted and that are in your blog we’re intended for literate and often scholarly audiences but they’re not the audiences we see Jesus spending time with in the scriptures. He spent time with the marginalised in his community, he chose fishermen to follow him, it was shepherds who the angels visited to tell the whole world of Jesus arrival. Jesus didn’t need people to confess anything, he said to the woman at the well that she was to worship in Spirit and Truth not in mind and words. I could go on but maybe a comment isn’t the place to do it. Our children as you said are created by God, loved by God and given to us as gifts. I have had some hurtful things said to me regarding faith and my girl but the view of the world she brings to our church is priceless and beautiful. I love the image of your son in church worshipping in the God given way he has. Don’t be discouraged by heretic preachers who want to turn the gospel message in to one of words, it’s one of heart and love. I fully believe in a fully inclusive God, there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, all are loved and created by God (Galatians). Just through your blogs I can tell you are a beautiful woman of God and that’s is who people will see. So much love and tears shed with you…xx

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  4. Hi Miriam, I’m convinced that believing in Jesus (the original word really meant trusting in, relying on, rather than the kind of intellectual assent that is the meaning we tend to give it today) is a matter not of the intellect but of the heart, and that people with severe learning disabilities, who don’t have an intellect that can get in the way and impair their relationship with God, may be streets ahead of the rest of us in terms of their relationship with Jesus. I blogged about it a couple of times, here: https://www.throughtheroof.org/who-are-the-disabled-ones-ros-blog/ and here: https://rosbunneywriting.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/the-king-is-in-the-house-or-not/
    Bless you and your lovely family, whose stories encourage us so much.

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  5. I’m a big believer that sometimes we need to read between the lines of the Bible. I don’t think it’s as literal as having to say it, I think we are judged by our hearts. Your children have beautiful hearts and so have no doubts they’d be welcomed into heaven x

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  6. I believe that being made in God’s image goes way beyond what we see of each other. God is Spirit, therefore we are also spirit, within the human body we see. Eternity I believe will be in our spiritual, perfect state, as we will be when we see Jesus face to face. So, with your dear Isaac, I believe as we can speak and hear God in our spirits, so do I believe for Isaac’s abilities, along with many others. I for one would never want to limit God’s grace or understanding, to which I only have a limited understanding. God is Almighty God. Jesus intercedes for Isaac and us all continually at the right hand of the Father. Be blessed in your belief for Isaac’s etenity.

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  7. Surely the real question is, can your disabled child ever NOT be held in the hands of God and welcomed into heaven eagerly and enthusiastically?
    No.

    Absolutely, God has this covered – it is by His grace for all of us.
    Absolutely, it is us that need prayer and healing.
    It is us that need transforming before we cross the threshold of the pearly gates.

    Isaac however, he’s got this thing down. He won’t find any stumbling blocks to entering the Kingdom of heaven.

    There is no parable about the man who threw toiletries out the window – it’s all good. 🙂

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  8. My adult son with autism won’t be saved by his (dis)ability to engage propositional faith. We rely upon the grace of God. There’s an interesting bit in 1 Corinthians 7, where the subject is whether or not converts should leave non-believing spouses. Paul says “No,” and goes on to add, “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” Hope that’s useful to you, because you and your care for your family ARE useful to the Savior’s work.

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  9. The trouble with the Evangelical model of salvation is that it all depends on us, not on God! We have to act before God will – but that is the wrong way round! It is God who saves; we cannot save ourselves! We can do absolutely nothing to save ourselves, and I’m sure that for every “proof text” that says we have to do something to be saved, there are others to remind us we can’t! Yes, if we are able, we need to commit ourselves to being God’s person (a commitment that we need to renew regularly!), but it is God who saves. Yes, we may choose to break God’s heart by saying “Thanks, but no thanks!” – and God will allow us that choice, but never stops loving us.

    I’m sure that, had your child died at birth, you would not now be asking these questions, but would be trusting that God had welcomed him with open arms, even while God’s heart broke for you! And, just as God welcomes and loves those tiny children who aren’t able to live, and who didn’t grow up enough to understand, so he will welcome your son, and those like him, who will never understand his love, only experience it!

    And know, too, that it’s perfectly okay to go down slightly different roads of faith – if you go badly wrong, God will be sure to let you know, one way or another. Otherwise, you will be delighted to discover how much bigger God is and how much broader Christianity can be, than ever you thought possible (and yes, it’s a scary journey!).

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  10. Tracts and sermons that say that say that belief is intellectual are misleading, yes it is a way of coming to Jesus, but not the only one. The bottom line, according to Jesus is, “whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” If Isaac can come to Jesus, in his own way, he will be accepted.

    I am on the autistic spectrum.

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  11. Pingback: A Mother’s Cry: Can my Disabled Child Ever Become a Christian? | faithmummy – Making an ass of myself

  12. David Pailin asks similar questions in his book, ‘The Gentle Touch’ and eventually concludes that people like your son have much to teach us, not just about what it means to be saved, but also about what it means to be human! I think the problem with much of our ‘traditional’ theology is that it was formulated largely by able-bodied, educated and privileged men who have tended to emphasise those parts of the God Story that make most sense to them. As a result, it has sometimes presented a very narrow view both of what it is to be human and what it is to be saved.

    More recently, people with disabilities have (rightly, in my view) questioned some of these assumptions. Deaf people, for example, have asked what it means to ‘hear’ God’s voice? Is God Deaf? Does he communicate in sign language? Similarly, people who rely on wheels to get around – to the extent that they see such wheels almost as part of themselves – have asked whether the God who still bears the scars of the crucifixion may also to be found in a wheelchair?

    On the face of it, some of these questions may seem bizarre. Instinctively, we may respond that, ‘Of course, God is not disabled!’. But I think such questions actually go to the heart of what it is to be human. What does it mean to be made in God’s image? And when one starts thinking about it in those terms, the answers become much less obvious. It’s like the difference between seeing the world in 2 dimensions and seeing it in 3. We need a theology that is capable of embracing the full diversity of what it is to be human – including your son. Anything less will only ever be part of the story.

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  13. Yes, I completely agree and believe that your sweet boy will be in heaven! Our God is a just God, and doing the opposite of this would be entirely against His character. Furthermore, all babies who are incapable of stating and believing for themselves that Jesus is Lord all go to heaven ❤ God knows your son completely and knows His situation! Just as sweet, innocent babes get to rest in the arms of Jesus, so will your son ❤
    I would love to hear more of your personal testimony. My blog is all about encouraging women, and if you'd be willing to share I'd love to feature it! Please reach out to me via the contact page on my blog at https://softcoverheart.blog/ if you're interested.

    Thanks and blessings to you and your family
    Leah

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