I’m Autistic. I Need a lot of Grace.

grace candlesOne of the things that I have learned since my diagnosis of Aspergers is my willingness to be more forgiving of people’s mistakes.  I’m not always good at that, but I try.  I try because all I have to do is look at my own life and realize that I will make a ton of mistakes and I need grace.

The worklife of someone with Aspergers, is always going to be chaotic.  Looking back at my work history, I can see that a lot of the problems I have, the ones that were summed up with people thinking I’m incompetent or worse is because of how my brain in wired.  No matter how hard I try (and I do try) I will always, always fall short.  This isn’t an excuse for mediocrity; it’s just an admission that I will frustrate others no matter how hard I try.

The social life of someone with Aspergers isn’t any better.  It’s hard to make friends and even harder to find someone to date.  Somehow I ended up with a husband and friends, but I have had to work hard at being a good friend and husband (at least in the neurotypical sense).  I have to learn what comes naturally to others.  During my time in Orlando for the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) I forced myself to be social. It was worthwhile, but I have to admit that at the end of the day, I had to go to my hotel room to “calm myself down.”

Actually, being a pastor is a “the worse of both worlds” for an aspie.  We have to deal with the whole job thing and at the same time learn to be social with others.  I’ve learned to do both, but I’m never going to be perfect, not like my “normal” colleagues.

It was nice to read today a blog post by a woman who used Autism Awareness month to remind people to be little more patient with the parents of autistic children:

Children with Asperger’s can seem like a typical child, until you are around them closely for awhile, then you will notice the behaviors that are “quirky” or “inappropriate” (not in a bad way, just in an uncomfortable way).

Communication skills are on par or even above, so these kiddos/adults are verbal, often very much so.  They just lack the filter for what is appropriate to be verbal about and lack the self control skills to stop themselves, which falls in the social and behavior category.

Behavior often seems obsessive to others or repetitive in an unusual way.  Their behavior often shows a  lack empathy for others.

Social interaction is often completely inappropriate or awkward.  There is usually an inability to read a situation or even nonverbal clues from others.

I am not attempting to fully describe Asperger’s.  Here is a test/checklist for Asperger’s that may help you see some more characteristics. 

Naturally, these vary in degree for each person with Asperger’s.

Of course, with training, they can develop and improve these skills, but they will always a struggle in some way.

Usually, these behaviors are ones that “should” have been mastered at a younger age, so what mommies do is jump to the poor parenting card.

They may not flash the card, but they’ll wave it in their heart.  They’ll possibly show it on their face.  Or talk about it to other mommies.

And one mommy is suddenly judged. And found lacking.

I’m that autistic kid thirty years later.  I’m the guy that looks rather normal, but then starts doing or not doing something that annoys co-workers.  I’m the guy that is now branded as a less than stellar worker with bad skills- the older version of blaming the parents.

As the blockquote notes, I have tried to develop and improve my social and communication skills and I think there have been some successes.  But none of that means that I will “get over it.”  I will always struggle in some way.

Which is why I find grace so attractive.  You see, grace isn’t some abstract theological concept.  No, it’s very real and I for one desparatlely need it.  I need it every day that I get out of bed, because at some point I will do something that will more than likely piss someone off.  The idea that I’m loved and accepted by God inspite of my faults is just amazing.

So that kid that is acting out with his mother trying to calm him down?  Well, he grows up to become me.  Autistic people need grace.  Actually, everyone needs grace, but someone that’s autistic is more aware of it because we screw up so often.

That the thing; I can’t hide the fact that I’m not perfect.  It’s right there in front of God and everyone.  All I have to do is breathe and I end up making some stupid  mistake.

So I need grace.  A lot of it.  I need to go to Costco and get grace in bulk.

It wasn’t til seminary that I really understood grace.  Lutherans are good at talking about grace.  But ten years later when I was diagnosed I realized how much I needed it.

If there’s anything good that comes from being autistic, it’s that I am aware of God’s grace.  I know I need it.  I want to see it in others and I want to be more graceful to others.

We all need this grace.  So I say to everyone out there; let’s try to be more graceful to each other.  Because that person next to you isn’t perfect…and neither are you.

T’was Grace that taught…
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear…
the hour I first believed.

Note: I should state that my current employers have been understanding of my diagnosis and all the baggage that comes with it. 

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