From Tina Dula
Many of you may know, and for some it may not even register, but April is Autism Awareness month. As some of you know from tracking with my family’s story, my son was diagnosed with Autism 11 years ago. He is on the more severe end of the spectrum, and has very limited verbal skills.
Erika Collier recently led worship at Perimeter Pointe, and she revealed that she had Asperger’s. I’ll let her explain more about the condition, but as she articulated some of her challenges, I recognized in her words many of the frustrations and barriers my son Myles faces, but can probably never articulate. She and I stared at each other with tears in our eyes. I think she recognized someone who, though not living with the condition, completely understood. And I recognized in her someone who could understand my son in a way that I never have been able to do…completely. She shared awesome insights about how being an Aspie sometimes makes engaging in God’s family difficult. (NOT ENGAGING is not actually a Biblical option, by the way…but that’s for another post – LOL) – I loved hearing how she has pressed through those challenges to fully embrace her role in the Body of Christ. I think you will, too.
I am simply fascinated with God’s creation. One need not look too far toward the horizon to behold its beauty…to observe the miracle of flight in a bird that passes by, to see the sustaining relationship between plants, the sun and the water cycle. I could go on and on. You see, these things, I can observe, analyze, and understand with minimal interaction. Why is this significant?
I have Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). It is an “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” It is not however what most people think of as Autism because those affected (or “Aspies” as many of us call ourselves) are typically considered to be high functioning. In a nutshell, the application/interpretation of “normal” unwritten rules for social interaction like facial expressions, knowing when it’s your turn to speak (or stop speaking), eye contact, subtleties in verbal and nonverbal communication just don’t come naturally. I use my intellect to understand human social behavior. This can be overwhelming and exhausting…especially when the God of all creation is clear about the necessity of fellowship amongst believers.
Another obstacle that many Aspies encounter on a daily basis is sensory issues. Basically we can either be “hypo” or “hyper” sensitive to our senses. My primary sensory challenge is hyper-auditory. This makes coping with walking into a room filled with many conversations very challenging.
Now that you know a little bit about me, consider this also:
“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”
My being an Aspie is no surprise, nor accident to God. As a matter of fact, a friend said it to me like this once: “He [God] entrusted you with it! He knew you would bring it all to Him saying ‘this is what it is Lord, now what do you want me to do with it?”
Yes! I, too, am a member of the body of Christ! I have gifts and a role to play! Here and now! Under the sun!
How do I weave my quirky traits and challenges into this tapestry called the body of Christ?
Each of my weaknesses have a complimentary strength that is needed in the family of faith.
1.) Treating social situations like an observational science (when it is too difficult to interact) allows me to see when others have a need. For example, I know that a new mother can certainly use a few meals…I can serve.
2.) My God-given audio sensitivity also allows me to have what is called perfect pitch and a natural musicality. I can compose and sing…I can serve.
3.) My tendency to love learning about particular passionate interests and wanting to go on and on sharing information makes for a good teacher…I can serve.
True, each time I serve, I face the very weaknesses I would many times like to avoid. But avoiding this to self-preserve does not serve the body of Christ well; nor does it prove to be good stewardship over that which God has entrusted to me. So when I am tired, overwhelmed and even depressed, my God says to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ‘Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’
I retreat in the evenings with my Jesus. When I am weary, heavy laden and most often misunderstood by others, He gives me rest…rest in His grace and truth of His word. I have many troubles, but the Lord delivers me from them all!
I would like to conclude with the words of a hymn by Isaac Newton to sum up my general experience:
Laden with guilt and full of fears
I fly to Thee my Lord
And not a glimpse of hope appears
But in Thy written word
The volumes of my Father’s grace
Does all my grief’s assuage
Here I behold my Savior’s face
In every page
This is the field where hidden lies
The pearl of price unknown
That merchant is divinely wise
Who makes the pearl his own
Here consecrated waters flow
To quench my thirst of sin
Here the fair tree of knowledge grown
No danger dwells within
This is the judge that ends the strife
Where wit and reason fail
My guide to everlasting life
Throughout this gloomy vale
O may Thy counsels, mighty God
My roving feet command
Nor I forsake the happy road
That leads to Thy right hand
I dedicate this post to my loving and patient husband.
Erika Collier is a wife, mother of three and a musician. You can find and follow her @ecolliermusic.