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Mark Arnold
 

‘Weak made strong’

There is always hope, hope for every child. No matter how profoundly they are impacted by their additional needs or disabilities, the love of Christ can and does reach them as powerfully as anyone else.

THE ADDITIONAL NEEDS BLOGFATHER AUTHOR Mark Arnold 14 MARCH 2019 17:00 h GMT+1
Photo: Unsplash, CC0

Have you ever built a great big tower out of Jenga blocks? Seen how high you can build it until it falls over? Great fun isn’t it! 



Some time ago, I was helping out at Spring Harvest, the Christian festival that runs every Easter. My role was to support guests with additional needs and disabilities across the whole site and across all ages from the crèche to the senior adults. It was while I was ‘doing my rounds’ that I first saw Jack* building his tower out of Jenga blocks (other wooden stacking blocks are available!) He would get to maybe six or seven blocks high and then they would all fall down.



Jack was about eight years old then, and I learned that he has Autism which in his case means that he struggles to communicate verbally, prefers not to be in a large noisy group of people, and can find contact with someone he doesn’t know difficult.  Although he didn’t know me, as I watched him I saw a lot of my own son, James (then aged 13) in him.  I got down on the floor with him and started to help him build the tower.



At first, he let me collect the blocks for him to use… 12, 13, 14 blocks… After a while he let me hold the tower as we built it so that it didn’t fall… 20, 21, 22 blocks… Then, with a crafty sideways glance at me out of the corner of his eye, I was given permission to help add blocks to the tower 33, 34, 35 blocks… Despite our best efforts, the tower was really wobbly by now and suddenly… Crash!! Down it all fell… I held my breath, looked at Jack, but he just laughed, a wonderful joy filled belly laugh of pleasure, and with another sideways glance I was invited to start to build with him again, one, two, three blocks…



We built the tower, watched if fall, and built it again many times; each time it fell Jack laughed and glanced at me to start again. It was great fun, I stayed way longer than I should have done, places I should have been were abandoned as we built the tower together… But eventually, I had to leave, and as I did so Jack carried on alone, suddenly seeming so weak and small again as he got to six or seven blocks and it all fell down. No joy filled belly laugh anymore, he just started over again; one, two, three…  My heart broke…



I thought a lot about Jack, whether he had gained anything at all from his time at Spring Harvest; whether he had been impacted by any of the spiritual programme in his sessions… Had he just been child-minded, busying himself with his Jenga blocks, or had something more than that reached him.



A few weeks after Spring Harvest, I got the answer to my questions… His family had got in touch with Spring Harvest to say what had happened on their car journey home.  It seems that Jack, who is almost entirely non-verbal, had been singing, yes singing, a line from the song Cornerstone by Hillsongs, which was a song that the worship band in his session had been playing during the week he was there…



Jack was singing, over and over, “Weak made strong, weak made strong, weak made strong!”  And his eyes shone as he sang…



The full lyrics for the chorus are based on 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 and go like this:



Christ alone; cornerstone

Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love

Through the storm, He is Lord

Lord of all



When I heard what had happened, my heart broke for Jack again, but this time with joy; joy that Jack’s heart had been touched by this song, that through it he had indeed encountered the Saviours love, that through the storms of his young life, Christ alone is Lord of all…  I can no longer sing that song without remembering Jack, without thinking of him, without crying tears of joy that he is loved by the Saviour.



Jack taught me that there is always hope, hope for every child. He taught me that Jesus Christ can, through the power of the Holy Spirit, reach everyone, everyone, with his love.  I mentioned earlier that Jack reminds me of my own son James, who also has Autism, who also struggles to communicate verbally, prefers not to be in a large noisy group of people, and can find contact with someone he doesn’t know difficult.  James doesn’t really sing (yet!) but he allows me to sing and joins in by saying some really important words…



His favourite chorus is ‘Jesus Loves Me, This I Know’; we sing it as a bedtime song and as we get to the chorus James joins in… “Yes!” Jesus loves “Me!”  and as we sing together, light shines from his eyes and a blissful smile plays across his face. We then pray together, and James looks at me intently at these times too, saying “Amen!” at the end of our prayers, and I know without any doubt that Jesus does indeed love James, and that James loves Jesus too!  Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love…



So there is always hope, hope for every child. No matter how profoundly they are impacted by their additional needs or disabilities, the love of Christ can and does reach them as powerfully as anyone else… As Paul wrote, it’s all about grace:



But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 New International Version (NIV)



Christ alone; cornerstone

Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love

Through the storm, He is Lord

Lord of all



“Amen!”



 



(* Jack is not his real name)



Mark Arnold, Director of Additional Needs Ministry at Urban Saints. Arnold blogs at The Additional Needs Blogfather. This article was re-published with permission.


 

 


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