Monday, April 14, 2014

Team Aspie

My son was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.   I always knew my son was a unique, eccentric, and quirky little guy.  Apparently, having those traits can get you a disorder classification.  (See how flippant that previous sentence was?  That’s a symptom…more on that later. )  Well to everyone’s surprise except mine, he is just like his dad.  I too have Asperger’s.

Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism named after the Austrian doctor Hans Asperger, who defined the disorder in 1944.  Asperger’s symptoms vary but the common ones are as follows:  lack of social skills, difficulty communicating, eccentric behaviors, and limited but obsessed interests.  Of course, only those without Asperger’s see these symptoms.  For us, this is normal behavior and you’re the one who is codependent, touchy, boring, and scattered.

As a child (who am I kidding, even as an adult), I preferred to be alone.  Of course there were seasons where I played with other kids, but aspies prefer solo missions.  We find that groups slow us down, or even more tragic, speed us up.  Very few things in life irritate us more than being rushed.  There is absolutely no excuse for an aspie to move quickly.  Even if a neurotypical (that’s you), finds us idle in a burning building, we’re not idle.  We could be thinking about how to fight the fire, as running may be third on our list.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.  2 Timothy 3:16

Nothing has managed my Asperger’s more than my relationship with Christ.  God’s truth is timeless.  It is powerful enough to overcome generations, cultures, personalities, and disorders.   One of the reasons it is difficult for an aspie to communicate is that aspies have a hard time showing empathy.  They also have difficulty initiating and maintaining conversations.  This isn't because aspies are more self-centered or less considerate.  It is because aspies toggle between being socially nearsighted or farsighted.  They don’t have a good blend.  This is not an excuse, but an explanation.  People with AS have a hard time noticing anything outside of what they are already focused on.  It's as if our minds have a tilt shift lens.  

If our focus is on something far away, we will trip over a couch as we make our way to that object.  If our focus is on something close, we are blind to the person awkwardly waiting for us to acknowledge them.  How do I meet this challenge?  I play offense.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Romans 12:10

If I don’t intentionally decide to prefer others, prior to walking into a crowd or meeting, I will easily get distracted, as I auto-switch between focuses.  I have to make a decision to honor and focus on others.  If I do, I will likely be the life of the party.  Conversely, if I am in my solitary default state, throwing me into a social situation will bring about one of two outcomes:  I will put everyone in queue as I continue my current action, or feelings of obligation will cause me to pause what I am doing and I will rush through social pleasantries.  Both of which leads to me to be, awkward at best, or offensive at worst.

Aspies may struggle with nonverbal communication such as eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures, but what we lack in body language, we over compensate with our unfiltered words, straight from the tap.  For example, a person with AS may engage in a one-sided speech about a topic that only he is familiar with.  Even worse, your signals that you have no idea what they are talking about go unnoticed as they transition into verbose mode.  People with AS tend to be loud and partisan in their speech.  My wife has expressed concern and frustration over the years for having to field questions for me.  Our friends would rather ask her a question than ask me.  And if it was something only I could answer, they would ask her to ask me.  Just as my etiquette needs to be intentional, so does my silence.

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.  Proverbs 17:28

But even that can backfire.  Guess how many times I have been accused of being unkind because I was silent?  Aspies don’t bounce ideas, and we don’t play verbal tennis.  We prefer verbal dodge ball.  My constitution gives me the right to remain silent.  My Bible gives me the responsibility.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalms 139:14

Before you get the idea that having Asperger’s is a joke and a curse, let’s discuss the positives.  My God made me this way for a reason.  Did you know my syndrome won’t let me quit what I’m focused on?  It is true that at times, I will almost crash my car looking for a McDonald’s fry that fell under the seat.  It is also true that my family will wait 15 minutes in the car while I hunt down a fly I spotted while grabbing my keys.  Aspies are committed people.  When I read the Bible, I find what God wants me to focus on.  And if I find it, it will be my mission till completion.  Once an aspie is on mission, he cannot be distracted.  Once we believe in something, we will fight to the death for it.  But that belief doesn't come easy.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.  1 Corinthians 15:58

In general, aspies are born skeptics.  We don’t just believe anything.  That is why we have a hard time with religion, tradition, and authority.  However, once I had an experience with God, everything changed.  An aspie is not impressed with history and testimony.  Aspies have to experience it for themselves.  This is why aspies are rough to speak with.  They don’t have opinions, they have conclusions.  If I am not convinced about a subject, it’s not a subject I am interested in discussing.

Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"  Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  John 20:29

I may be a doubting Thomas, but now that I’ve experienced the Lord, nothing will ever change my mind.  My son also has a heart for God.  Jesus is in both of our lives.  And I know that will always be the case, because aspie hearts are impregnable fortresses.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who's You're Daddy?

Have you ever just wanted to handcuff God, drag him to the nearest precinct, sit Him down, and ask Him a few questions?  Why is this happening to me?  Where are you?  I have no problem with Him being omniscient.  I am relieved He is omnipresent.  But what is going on with His omnipotence?  You wouldn’t expect a police officer to idly watch as a bank is being robbed.  You wouldn’t expect a doctor to continue eating his lunch as a patron goes into cardiac arrest.  So why does it seem like God can be a lazy, late, and lost Superman whenever I need Him the most?

I spent last week teaching my son how to ride his bike.  At first, he didn’t want anything to do with it.   He preferred the training wheels because it was too much work to balance himself.  After his first fall, my initial reaction was to pick him up and put him back on his seat.  But I knew that would only prolong the training.  I decided the best thing to do was give him instructions.  Michael is strong enough to pick himself up, so I knew helping him physically wasn’t necessary.  What IS necessary is to help him spiritually.  I can think of no better spiritual exercise, than the exercise of obedience.

Michael already has a tendency to whine and demand relief.  And as my only son, I already have a tendency to use my power to give it.  But is that really the best thing?  In America, we’ve adopted a Chinese proverb for the importance of reproducing our values.  (If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime.)  I commanded Michael to get up, stop whining, and get back on the bike.  On his third attempt, I let go of his shoulders, and he’s never looked back.  It took discipline for me to idly stand with arms folded and tell him what to do.  If felt uncomfortable because my desire was to give him temporary relief from his pain and let him continue with the training wheels.  But I also knew about the future joy and freedom that he would experience once he did it.  This was something Michael had to trust me with.  But I had to MAKE him trust me.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. – James 1:22

I have met many Christians who are quite familiar with the scriptures.  But knowing God’s word in theory is powerless.  The power of God’s word is in the application.  I know a guy who has no job and has recently filed for bankruptcy.  He claims he is trusting God, but in reality he’s not.  God has already provided us with a book to align ourselves with His will and purpose.  My friend isn’t trusting in God to come through.  He is trusting in his fairy God-Mother to appear, cut up his credit cards, turn off the television, iron his clothes, re-work his resume, AND drive him around in a limousine while filling out applications.  Did I mention he is unemployed by choice?  Well he is.  This is just one example of how we can completely ignore the fact that God is NOT interested in our temporary comfort.  He is interested in conforming us into His image.  The quicker we get back on the bike, the quicker we can learn the lesson.  I have assembled many entertainment centers, play sets, and office furniture WITHOUT following the directions.  In doing so, I’ve wasted hours of my life having to go back and start over.  Sadly, I’ve done the same thing with my life, and wasted YEARS.

But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. – 1 Samuel 30:6

It may seem like God is silent, absent, or apathetic.  But that is a feeling that we need to douse with the water of God’s word.  He said He would never leave us or forsake us.  The very hairs of our head are numbered.  Nothing happens without his knowledge.  We may not understand it.  We may not like it.  It may hurt.  But it all boils down to who knows best.  If He knows best, there is no reason for God to explain Himself.  God had to endure 37 chapters of Job and the peanut gallery struggling to explain what was going on?  When Michael fell off his bike and began to whine, I had to silence him with a raised voice.  I love the fact that God did the same thing with Job.  God answered THROUGH A TORNADO and said,

Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.  “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.” – Job 38:

If God seems silent in your situation, open your Bible and speak to the situation.
The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap one or the other. – Proverbs 18:21

If God seems still in your situation, put on your work gloves and do something about it.
Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom. – Ecclesiastes 9:10

If God seems stoic about your situation, get on your knees and trade your fear for His faith.
Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. – Matthew 8:26

Now that I think about it, I can’t recall a time when Michael came to me with a legitimate emergency.  Embarrassingly, I can recall dozens of emergencies that I’ve waved in God’s face.  I’m encouraged to know that God raised his voice and set the record straight with Job.  Who’s knows you better than you know yourself?  Who answers to who?  Get back on the bike and do exactly as He says.  Those who want the temporary bowl of RELIEF to satisfy their hunger will delay REVELATION and the banquet table of God's purpose in their life.

"When you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.”

Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” – John 21:18-19

I'm growing older in my relationship with God, and I can tell by the lessons.  I'm sure Michael can tell as well.