My husband and I love being volunteers with the local Capernaum team… incredible leaders with commitment and passion through changing life seasons… they began as college students, most have gotten married, and several have kids now but continue to serve as volunteer leaders.
When we returned from Peru to live in Fresno and joined the team this past year, we began to get to know their high school friends. Christian, my husband, became friends with Nate right away. Nate is one of the most creative people I have ever met. He invents all kinds of animals, characters and even robots out of recyclables. Nate is an expert on anything from the world of Sci-Fi and Christian and Nate became fast friends on that basis. Christian also has a deep appreciation for one of Nate’s characteristics that not everyone appreciates quite as much. Through Christian’s eyes, I am coming to value this about Nate too… Nate is more genuine, honest, and authentic than anyone I have ever met. Nate will tell you what he sees, what he thinks, how you look, and who you are.
Nate and Christian talk on the phone quite a bit and this year has been Nate’s last as a high school Capernaum friend, so we’ve been working on transition. It hasn’t been easy for Nate, but he and Christian continue to talk through it… they talk through the changes and challenges of life with a frankness and an openness that is so real it can be startling. Last week when I was at a community Bible study for some of our older friends that Nate has been becoming a part of, I heard some of his honesty and it embarrassed me….
We were talking about friendship and how a friendship with God is what motivates us to have conversation with Him in prayer. Nate spoke up… “I have one friend who talks to me often, but its hard because he is married… to her…” (Nate points at me accusingly). “He can’t be my best friend because he is hers… and its hard. Its hard being married to her too, he told me that…” This is where I wanted to either defend myself, scold Nate’s “inappropriateness,” ask my husband ‘WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN TELLING HIM?” or hide under the table. I just laughed. I realized that Christian has been real with Nate too. Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. Transition is hard. Life is hard, but when we pretend its not, sugar coat things, and act as though its all beautiful and easy, we aren’t being very honest and we certainly aren’t helping one another by denying the challenge. Christian has been real with Nate as he navigates changes, relationships, and his life… and Nate understands that even a marriage is challenging, but that God is the only friend who will ALWAYS be available to him. Nate was quick to point out that most friends are unavailable at some point, but this idea of God being available at all times and not ever hard to get along with meant the world to someone whose honesty often isolates him.
Christian and I laughed later as I relayed the story. Nate’s honestly is refreshing and he gets it… a relationship with God means being understood. All other relationships become clouded by our humanness… I can’t be offended by Nate’s clarity or honesty, I can learn from it though. Perhaps if we were all a little more honest with one another and not so quick to respond with the first 14 responses of defensiveness that jumped into my mind, we’d feel a little more free to be where we are and find the kind of acceptance that Nate finds in his friendship with Christian, and ultimately with Christ. We call Autism a disability, but I am learning instead to call Nate an authentic and honest friend. Perhaps its me that is more disabled at times by my “appropriate, polite, and kind” ways and my quickness to judge “appropriate” and “inappropriate” behavior without hearing my friend’s heart that is just speaking truth.
Thanks, Nate, for keeping it real! We love you!