At first, Josiah's Fire is a poignant memoir of parenting a child with autism. When Josiah, a seemingly typical child, began acting detached from his surroundings and stopped speaking, his autism diagnosis hit the Cullens hard. Parents of children with autism can relate to the desolation and frustration with God, their social awkwardness in relating to parents of typical children, and their many efforts, through schools, therapies, and treatments, to recover the child they felt they had lost. This is the book I was expecting.
I did not anticipate the turn the Cullen's life took when he unexpectedly began to communicate in ways they never expected. He started to show signs of interacting, spelling simple words on his iPad. Then, after reading about Jesus healing a blind man, he typed "godisagoodgiftgiver." Thus began his writing, which poured out, showing spelling and writing ability that he had never shown, along with spiritual insight that defied natural explanations.
Here Josiah's Fire--and the Cullens family--takes a turn for the unbelievable, the unexpected, the unprecedented. Josiah wrote and wrote, describing his trips to heaven, where he sat at a table with other students to learn from the likes of Moses and Abraham Lincoln. He describes long-dead family members he meets there, and what their jobs are. He has prophetic insight into his mother's life, and theological insight that astounds his family.
His writing is enigmatic, insightful, and at times poetic. Keep in mind that he was not yet seven when he wrote that first phrase, and began writing more and more. His use of language almost makes him sound like a non-native English speaker, which makes sense, since he really hadn't learned to write at all before he began getting these revelations. Here are some snippets:
In the Trinity, the Father is the manager. The Son is the love of operations. Holy Spirit is worker. So it's the three-in-one getting things done.
So voice the little hands to say, "Pick me, Jesus! I am that person who will partner with your plan to be the fullness of miracles in this earth!"
If you order something from God's list, you should get it. If you don't right away, you should make another call and ask why. Order it up again. Then it will be spoken to the warehouse that you want that thing, and checked it is on God's list for you to have it.
The world is trialed now only by the truth. Break, taste, drink, see that the truth is so good. Trials are to truth, not to suffering.As you might imagine, Josiah's parents were overwhelmed with Josiah's writing. They began posting them on Facebook, gaining a following. Some of his writings were very specific, and directed toward certain people, who confirmed their accuracy. Theologically, I saw nothing objectionable or contrary to scripture. Whether his descriptions of heaven are accurate--well, I suppose I'll just have to wait and find out.
Interestingly enough, Josiah prophesied healing for autism. Yet he still acted out, had tantrums, and interacted with others in ways that indicate autism. He felt frustration that his physical body would not behave sometimes, while he had such insights and spiritual experiences. (During his heavenly forays, he did not have autism.)
So, what to do with Josiah's Fire? For parents of children with autism, it may be hard to relate to Josiah and his family. I never got the sense that they believe this type of communication would become the norm. But do I believe that individuals with autism can have spiritual insights and experience the presence of God? Absolutely. They just may not have the ability to describe it. In the meantime, I'll rejoice with Josiah's family that they have been given such a gift and appreciate the wisdom and insight that Josiah's unique link to heaven can give.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!