I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Eyes are the windows of the soul.” Jesus said it a little bit differently: "The eye is the lamp of the body. You draw light into your body through your eyes, and light shines out to the world through your eyes. So if your eye is well and shows you what is true, then your whole body will be filled with light." Matthew 6:22
Both sayings makes me think of three people in particular. My grandmother, my husband, and my youngest son, Joel, who has autism.
Grandma has been gone for over 25 years, but I can still see her bright blue eyes. Grandma wasn’t always happy (after all, she’d raised 7 children while building a business in the printing trade back in the 1930’s!), but when she was happy her eyes danced. They sparkled. They invited me in to play. They invited me to be myself, saying, in a single look, “Kathy, you are one of my favorite people in the whole wide world!” Grandma's eyes reflected her soul: a woman overflowing with excitement for life, always ready to try something new, youthful into old age, and always open to spending time with her granddaughter.
My husband Wally’s eyes speak mischievousness. When I look into his eyes I can still see the little boy within. The kid who loved to play pranks on his siblings. The teenager walking the line between naughty and nice. The young man who made my 19-year-old heart melt. Today, 44 years into our marriage, smile crinkles radiate from his always-inquisitive brown eyes. Those wrinkles speak of lots of laughter along the journey. A journey, with autism, that has been far from easy. Wally’s eyes reflect his soul. The soul of a man who knows how to have fun, who knows the joy of the Lord, who always chooses to make opportunities to play with his wife, his kids, the young people in his church, when he could choose instead to work at his business 24/7.
What can the eyes of someone with autism—particularly one who is not very verbal—show us about a soul? My son Joel’s intense blue eyes captivate me, especially on Sunday mornings at church. He loves to reach out and pull my face or his dad's face toward his for a deep drink of eye to eye contact. Not your run-of-the-mill autistic trait, I know! Joel loves to look into the eyes of people he loves. And when he looks into my eyes, his soul speaks compassion and unconditional love. When I look deeply into Joel's eyes, I see Jesus.
Years ago I wrote a poem about a soul encounter during a deep, loving look from Joel, and this morning that poem sprang to mind as I began writing about eyes and souls and light and autism:
Luke 24: 31-32
Finished with our game
of funny faces
Joel cups my face
between his palms
An offering of praise
Thirteen going on three
his childlike eyes
arrest my gaze
burn with new intelligence
Remembered words drop
in the pond of our play
shall shame the wise
Funny chipmunk face
My heart ignites
(From Autism & Alleluias, Judson Press, 2010)
- Take a deep look into your child’s eyes. Make a game of it if that will help them to tolerate your gaze. What soul characteristics do you see looking back at you? How does this help you to know your child better?
- Take a long look into your own eyes in the bathroom or bedroom mirror. Concentrate on the eyes, not any other part of your face, hair or body. What do you see? What do you think your loved ones see as they look into your eyes? If need be, spend some time in conversation with the Lord on anything that your soul may need today.