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‘God is so good to me’

"‘God is so good to me’" Continued...

Those dreams evaporated with Bradley’s diagnosis of autism when he was just two-and-half years old. “That was what was most devastating as a parent,” Jennifer said, tearing up. “Your dreams have to stop when you get the diagnosis. … Oh, I could cry right now because it’s so real. It’s a death of a vision and a dream.”

Jennifer started realizing something was wrong with Bradley when he turned 2. During his second birthday party at a park, he showed no interest in presents or socializing. Instead, he traced the perimeter of the park, walking round and round by himself. Other little signs raised alarm: He was abnormally fascinated with things that spun. He would spin the wheels of his toy cars for hours, staring deeply into the rotating steel. He also liked to rewind certain scenes in a movie, playing them over and over. 

When Bradley was diagnosed, doctors rarely detected autism. It took three doctors to determine Bradley had ASD. He was at the forefront of the huge wave of autism diagnoses and awareness. Since the early 90s, rates for ASD diagnosis have increased more than four-fold. “But at that time, it was hardly talked about,” Jennifer said. “You know, I just thought of that movie, Rain Man, starring Tom Cruise. That’s all I knew of autism then.”

The 1988 film stars an autistic man who is a talking, functional, math-whiz super-genius with a photographic memory. But autism stretches into a long spectrum from high functioning to low, with a wide range of symptoms, skills, and intellectual and physical impairment. Bradley is considered severely disabled. He’s nonverbal— although he blabbers— and he still plays with toys. If he is a genius, he is unable to communicate it in “normal” society’s terms.

After Bradley’s diagnosis, Jennifer started thinking about God a lot more. Although she was raised as a Christian, she distanced herself from God as an adult. Then one day, she had what she describes as an “out-of-body” experience. She was sprawled on the floor, changing Bradley’s diaper and weeping bitterly at her situation. “And then I was suddenly at the top of the room looking down at myself,” she recalled. “That was when I thought, ‘I really need to find out who God is in my life right now.’ And I said, ‘God, I need you.’”

Jennifer attended a Christian retreat and recommitted her life to Him. At home, she devoured her Bible, journaling her meditations and praying out loud. “Something awoke in me,” she said. “God became real to me for the very first time. One day I just felt his love come on me tangibly, and I started crying. Oh God, it’s real. It’s so real. Your love is real. I love you, Jesus. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” 

After 17 years of praying, Bradley still hasn’t “recovered,” at least in clinical terms. But his mother has been healing. She has penned through numerous “meditation” journals, and she’s studied her Bible so much that she regularly quotes appropriate verses during conversations. It’s clear from her prayers that she’s someone who talks to God often. 

But Jennifer’s journey remains one of continuous healing. I’ve seen her with dark circles beneath eyes red from exhaustion and frustration, but I’ve also seen those same eyes light up as she prays out loud and shares whatever Scripture she’s read that day. 

For Jennifer, every single moment is a choice: “We make that decision of whether to let God open up the heavens over our life … or we can just suffer through trials. … The message that I want to give to all autistic parents is this: Never give up, because God’s Word is there.”

Sophia Lee
Sophia Lee

Sophia is a features reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the University of Southern California with degrees in print journalism and East Asian language and culture. She lives in Los Angeles with her cat, Shalom. Follow Sophia on Twitter @SophiaLeeHyun.

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