In many ways, Alex still seems like a young child. He enjoys Veggie Tales and other forms of entertainment geared for younger children, though admittedly Veggie Tales is one of those things that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. He’s reliant on others for daily care needs. He struggles so much with relatively simple tasks. From a strictly “independent doer’s” perspective, Alex is very much like a young child.
But Alex isn’t a young child. He’s a young man, a tween. He’s a boy learning how to become a man. Brandon and Will’s paths to manhood, though each different from the other, have been more or less typical. They each have their atypicalities, but the paths themselves form a linear progression, with ups and downs, regressions and bursts of development, lags and rushes, but more or less straight courses moving forward. Their gains in independence have been fairly easy to mark and recognize. Alex’s path is very different. In some areas, he seems to make very little progress. In others, he’s growing and changing. But you have to be willing to see it, to recognize it, to acknowledge it.
Certain events and experiences show our characters. These events come in many shapes and forms, but all represent hardships of one kind or another. According to the movie, Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis compared these experiences to the master artisan chipping away bits of stone to form the beautiful statue we are to become; it’s painful, but necessary. Other Christian references refer to the refiner’s fire or baking clay to make pottery. The idea is that God is crafting us, as any master craftsman crafts his creation, and we are becoming more perfect by our times in the fire.
But not everyone survives this process, let alone becomes more perfect because of it. We all struggle, we all fall, and we all fail at times, but some of us get back up and try again, try to be better. Some of us sell out to earthly temptations. Others break under the strain.
The vessel that is Alex—the outer shell, the body and its limitations—is childlike in many ways. But inside Alex is growing strong and sure. He endures. He seeks comfort when it is needed, and accepts it when it’s offered, but he no longer clings to me as he did when a little child in truth. He’s growing, he’s enduring, and he’s becoming the man he will be, slowly and surely.
I don’t know how to put into words what I observed. It wasn’t so much a matter of doing. It was how it was done, the spirit it was done in, and the way it was done. Once, Alex was the happiest person I knew. Despite his limitations, he was joyful and happy and exuberant. The spirit shined and it was a light in our house that shone brightly and with a constancy that I dearly miss. But the limitations and frustrations, not to mention the daily trials and intrusions Ben has placed on his older brother, have worn away that shine. Alex is struggling. But, as he suffered his recovery from surgery that first day in my mom’s house, I saw a renewal of that spirit, a glimpse that assured me it wasn’t gone or worn away, that it would shine again it its own time, as it shone that day he bore his pain and his new, if temporary, limitations.
The next day, Alex was back to struggling and discomfort, irritated and aggravated and frustrated. But the light is there, waiting, banked against the daily trials, looking for the chance to shine again. The vessel may not be perfect by man’s standards, nor even normal and acceptable; the spirit may still need perfecting by God’s standards, as we all do; but the soul in that little boy, who is becoming a man, is a great soul, full of something special that has nothing to do with “needs.” Someday, and I’m committed to this, I will help to find a way for Alex to share this with the world, for he has something to contribute, something to be “productive” about, and I will not all that contribution to be stopped by earthly, able-minded prejudices.