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  • Katie Smith

Miscommunication



"In Ancient Israel everything human came to expression in words: reverence, gratitude, anger, sorrow, suffering, trust, friendship, commitment, loyalty, hope, wisdom, moral outrage, repentance, and in the book of 'Song of Songs' it is love that finds words" (Zondervan Book Intro. 1984, pg 1098). Just as the book of "Proverbs" personifies wisdom, giving her an audible voice, expression through communication connects the dots of clarity in our chaos. But what happens to those who possess no voice?


What happens when there is neither written, oral, or expressive means to communicate? Those with disabilities that cannot find words or mannerisms to express their positive emotions are often seen as incoherent, or even worthless in our society. Moans, groans, or even silence falls into the negative emotive category rendering the nonverbal participant equally as disheartened as the verbal recipient.


My second son, Levi Joe, has walked in the non-verbal world from time to time, using his facial expressions or signing fingers to communicate his wants and desires. However, after six years of speech, I thought we had crossed the hurdle of communication concerns, only to see the error in this assumption.


Kindergarten exhausts even the most sprightly of kids, but for a child with hypotonia and other physical challenges, even a shortened day gives way to a new level of tired. When Levi is low on sustenance or sleep, he literally falls to pieces, and not the way that most of us do. Instead, my sweet and compassionate son surrenders his joyful "Dr. Jekyll" to an antagonistic "Mr. Hyde." The transformation is a scary science experiment without a simple solution.


Deep down, I know Levi's kind heart wants to control that hateful, irrational, screaming version of himself, but he struggles in the midst of those horrid moments. Like any adult living through a challenging season with their spouse, their work, their kids, or their life, we can make choices in the heat of a moment that we later regret. When the storm of consternation subsides, Levi always expresses remorse and love, but this isn't the case for everyone.


Some of us don't want to face our reflection after walking in "Hyde's" shoes. Some of us can't trust anyone, let alone ourselves, after such a terrible transformation. And still others literally cannot express themselves accurately, even if they wanted to show contrition of heart. For those loving a non-verbal, non-communicative, or emotionally/expressively stunted human being, know that your labor of love is not in vain.


How often does God speak to us in ways that we won't listen or respond? He watches us scream in frustration or act out in rebellion only to send a calming whisper- notes of love- that we refuse to reciprocate in our rage. We must see others, not just in their mess, but perhaps have enough humility to see the Jekyll, and the Hyde, in ourselves.


When we know how capable we are of choosing the wrong mode of communication, we can more easily give grace and forgiveness to the Hydes we witness, knowing one day we may see the same horror in ourselves. Don't be discouraged by your reflection in the mirror. We have all impulsively communicated at some point. Instead, work to surrender the fight, and search for better modes of communication. My labor of love (and miscommunication) with Levi is not in vain. As difficult as some days feel, I know that if God created all men in His image, then we can all shows signs of love. Some weeks I have to wait longer for Jekyll to return, but the wait is always worth my while.


Even if you have an unresponsive loved one right now, know that hope is never lost. "If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it in patience" (Romans 8:25). “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). If you can't audibly hear God's hope and love, know that signs of it are everywhere. We just have to ask for the right senses to hear Him.


"I waited patiently for the Lord, and He heard my cry" (Psalm 40:1).


~Carefully & Carelessly Communicating

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