Some pastors love visiting with people. A number of congregations have what are called Visitation Pastors. These are usually retired pastor who go around visiting the sick and shut-ins. Most of the visitation pastors that I know tend to be rather jovial and extroverted people.
But First doesn’t have a visitation pastor. Correction, they do and it happens to be me.
Visitation is a challenge for me. Being autistic, the thought of visiting people makes me nervous for a few reasons; first, I have to engage in small talk, something I don’t do well. Second, is that meeting people is draining on me. I can’t explain it, but I expend a lot of energy meeting people. Finally, like many with Aspergers, I over think my time with people. I worry that I said the wrong thing even when it looks like I haven’t.
As an Associate Pastor, I rarely did visits. Now as a solo Pastor, I have to. I can’t tell people that I’m autistic and well, they just have to make do. It doesn’t work that way.
So, despite my dread, I go to the nursing home. I end up visiting some fascinating people, folks that have lived some damn interesting lives. Even as my eyes are darting around and I count the moments til I can leave, I enjoy getting to know these people.
When I leave, I am thankful to leave. But I am also grateful to have had this time to just talk with this person. I am glad to just be there and hear their story.
Being a pastor with autism is definitely not a walk in the park. It’s filled with challenges and traps. But you also get to meet people sometimes at their most vulnerable and try to be Christ at that moment.
I think that the Christian life is filled with things we don’t want to do, but we do them anyway for the greater glory of God. The autistic Christian has a whole bunch of things they don’t want to do, but I think God gives us the strength to do them.
The apostle Paul had something he called a “thorn in his side.” He asked God to take it from him. God replied “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul’s words also brought to mind the song “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister. The song, released in 1985, was pure 80s pop. But the lyrics were captivating. Think of the oddity of flying with broken wings. And yet, there something about those ironic lyrics that talked about grace under pressure. The refrain goes like this:
So take these broken wings
And learn to fly again, learn to live so free
And when we hear the voices sing
The book of love will open up and let us in