Thursday, November 7, 2013

Asperger's and How to Follow God Without the Rules

This post, 'Mr. Spock goes to church': How one Christian copes with Asperger's syndrome, caught my attention for several reasons:
  1. Hey, I too am a Christian with Asperger's Syndrome.
  2. Wait, is there a connection between Asperger's and my firm belief that Spock is CLEARLY the BEST character from the original Star Trek series?
So, my experience as a Christian with Asperger's is different from that of the writer of that post, but dude, this line right here:
To people who are beaten down or befuddled by religious rules, Jesus offers something that no one else does: rest. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," he says.
Amen and amen to that.

Image source.

I used to follow all the rules of Christianity. I used to believe all the things Christians are "supposed to" believe.

You know, the rules about purity and modesty. The rules about reading the bible every day, going to church every Sunday. The rules about staying away from certain kinds of movies and music because it would "lead you astray." The rules about giving 10% of your income to the church. The rules about knowing all the answers in case you get into an apologetics debate. The rules about "sharing the gospel" with people, whether they wanted it or not.

And things were great back then when I followed all the rules. I was so happy and felt so close to God.

Because, apparently, people with Asperger's like routines and sameness and certainty, and see the world in black-and-white. I know that's true in my case.

I understand rules. Like, just tell me God commands this thing and we HAVE to do it and maybe it doesn't always make sense but it's what God said so no worries, and I'm good to go.

Those are the rules.

God says it, I do it. I get that. I can do that.

Absolutes. Taking everything literally.

Story time! So I remember when I was little, my mom asked me to set the table for dinner. And of course, the rules say that you have to wash your hands before touching everyone's clean silverware. So I washed my hands, and then became incredibly confused- how could I open the silverware drawer??? If I touched the drawer handle, then wouldn't my hands be unclean? The rules say we can't touch the clean silverware unless we have freshly-washed hands. WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO???

And my mom was like, it is fine.

So yes. Rules. I can do rules. God said it, I do it, and that's all I need to know.

But then, very slowly, I started to doubt that those rules were really what God said.

For a long time, I did my best to define, clarify, understand, and follow the modesty rules, and I never succeeded. It never made sense. And of course at the time I thought, this is the rule, handed down by God, the problem is I must be missing something in my understanding of it.

Umm, right. Eventually I ditched all that modesty stuff. They are NOT the rules, handed down by God.

Same thing with purity culture. I followed all the rules- and you know, if you follow all the rules, God is supposed to give you a perfect marriage. But instead it made me afraid of everything related to romance or sex. And I decided, this can't be right. These must not be the rules handed down by God.

So I ditched purity culture.

And then as I read more and more blogs and stuff, I started to think maybe the other rules weren't exactly rules-handed-down-by-God-and-if-you-don't-follow-it-your-life-will-be-terrible.

I read about Christians who didn't go to church every week, and had good reasons for doing so.

I read about Christians married to non-Christians, and their marriages were good.

I read about Christians who had sex without being married, and they said it was actually a good thing and didn't ruin their lives or whatever.

I read about the reasons that women get abortions.

I read about the problems that poor people face, and that made me question and reject the "all Christians have to give 10% of their income to the church" rule.

I read about Christians who didn't believe all those things that Christians are supposed to believe. And, you know, I'm one of them.

I read about atheists who had perfectly happy lives and did not have "a God-shaped hole in their heart."

So. Perhaps the rules are actually harmful. Or perhaps they are good rules in general, but there are some exceptions. Either way, they are NOT absolute. And you know what that means? It means I have to actually think about my own situation and decide what makes sense and what doesn't.

No longer can I just follow a rule because it's a rule. Because they aren't God's rules. They're rules that some people made up.

I actually have to think about the reasoning behind a rule and decide whether or not it actually applies to me.

And that is TERRIFYING. What if I'm WRONG??????

I can do rules. But you know, people with Asperger's get kind of distressed when things change and the rules aren't kept. And trying to figure this out myself, without someone else making rules for me... dude, that is terrifying.

And I worry and worry and worry because I feel far from God and it must be because I'm not keeping the rules and I'm not reading my bible every day and I'm doing all these things and I'm such a bad Christian and STOP, PERFECT NUMBER, STOP! Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Following Jesus is NOT supposed to be a bunch of messy confusion about which rules to follow and guilt over the ones I've rejected. He said he would give us rest.

It's hard, you guys, the number of times every day I start to feel guilty over breaking a rule that I don't even believe in anymore and I need to remind myself to relax and not worry.

You guys. Jesus is here. It's okay. It's all good news.

Jesus is here and he gives freedom and rest. And you know, even if breaking some of those rules turns out to be unhealthy, that's okay. I'll learn from my mistake, and adjust accordingly. It won't ruin my life.

Jesus is here, and he says to love. He had a lot of things to say about following rules for the sake of rules.

No more rules. And I'm so scared. To be blunt: I don't know how to follow God without the rules.

No more rules. Just love. Love others and love myself. But I don't know how to love myself without those rules.

No more rules. Jesus gives rest.

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