Thursday, 22 December 2016

Autism, and why I'm a Christian - a Reflection for Church Leaders

As the season of Christmas is upon us, a personal reflection from me on faith.
Why?  Because it's a huge part of my life.  Always has been.
I knew God was there, even before I knew that people were people.  Even before I knew how to use words. 
And, for me, the Christian faith has been the thing that has kept me going in dark times.
We know from research that autistic people are just as likely to be part of faith as anyone else.  Whether it's Christianity, the Jewish faith, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or otherwise. 
It's hard to explain what a faith relationship with Jesus means to me.  It means that none of these scenarios happened:

When Jesus met with social outcasts, he didn't hurry by, saying, "I don't have any time to deal with you".
When Jesus was approached by Nicodemus, arguably autistic, he didn't tell him to go away because it was too much bother or cost to deal with him.  He explained things, and created the most loyal and faithful friend, right to the end.
When Jesus found Mary Magdalene in his life, he didn't say, "Gee, a woman with money and an unusual past?  Let's distrust her."  He used her gifts, and made her part of the life of that band of followers.
When Jesus encountered disabled people, he didn't say, "Well, it's your own fault.  What do you think I am, social services?"  or "Do you mind not being here - we have real work to do and you're in the way of it".   He loved, he ask them what they wanted for themselves, he healed their lives in ways that respected those wishes, he brought them back into relationship and community.  It was never, ever about walking by, pretending it was all too problematic, pretending that 'people like that' are too much bother or not the right sort.

Jesus said that we were to be included.  Brought into the banquet.  Actively sought.  A full banquet.  Not a crumb from the leftovers, not an afterthought.  Not in a different room, somewhere else.

Even as I'm writing this, I'm in tears of relief, just thinking about that degree of love.  Because it's not something we get a lot of.  Yes, there are lovely exceptions...but....
We mostly get to be the 'cost', the 'issue', the 'problem', in modern church, I'm afraid.  Well, we do, don't we.   The person leaders hurry past, , so they are not inconvenienced by having to meet us, having to encounter us, having to speak with us.

I yearn for the day when perhaps, just perhaps, I get to meet our Lord, and fall at his feet, knowing that I'm loved.

May the love of God, and of Jesus, be amongst us all this Christmas.