- Posted April 4, 2014 by
AUTISM and the CHURCH
All of these could be used to describe my broken heart after visiting a church while out of town. It was nearly 5 years ago. My son had just been diagnosed with Autism. My life was spinning out of control. My “normal” life had been stolen. It was replaced by endless messes, screaming, uncertainty and havoc.
I just wanted to catch my breath.
All I wanted to do was go to church.
I was desperate.
It was the only place I could find solace. A respite from
the endless demands.
I just wanted to escape from the nightmare my life had become; even if only for an hour.
I knew it would be a challenge for my son to go into a Sunday school classroom, but I thought we would try.
To no avail.
He wouldn’t stay in the classroom without me. We tried every trick in the book. He just couldn’t do it.
There was nowhere else for us to go.
We were forced to leave.
Distraught, I did my best to hold back the tears. They came anyways.
My husband hugged me. We looked into each other’s eyes with a knowing.
An unspoken understanding.
We didn’t get what we came for.
Instead, more pain.
More isolation. More hurt.
Is this the church?
The church I love? The church I am part of.
When we returned home I was determined. We must do better.
I never ever want anyone to experience what we did.
I’m in a unique position. I have a son with Autism. And
my husband happens to be the Pastor.
We cannot allow this to happen in our church.
God forgive us if it already has.
Here’s what we decided to do:
We offer the child a helper in the classroom. But, if the child will not stay in the classroom for any reason we have a room set aside just for them and their parents. It is equipped with a large screen television with a live stream of the service. It can be life giving for the desperate parents.
We ask the parents what we can do to accommodate their child’s individual needs. Many times it is surprisingly easy. Parents are not unreasonable. They understand our resources are limited and are grateful the church sees their need and wants to help.
We’ve been asked several times, “Are you doing all of this just for one child?”
Matthew 25:40 Jesus said, “… when you did it to one of the least of these … you were doing it for me!’
Who are the least of these?
The word “least” can be defined as being the smallest in importance, the most insignificant, the looked over, looked through, looked down upon person you can think of. When picking sides for a team they will be the last one chosen; relegated to a side only by default. They will be the last one invited over for dinner, invited into a conversation, the one with the least to offer. The one that everyone thinks will end up “being nothing.” They are nobodies waiting for somebody to take notice. Standing on the sidelines of life inwardly waving their hands in the air, “Pick me! Pick me!” only to be overlooked time and again.
Do you know one of these?
Knowledge is power. It is within your power to do something. Put this into action.
Please hear my heart.
I’m not asking the church to understand Autism.
I am asking it to love the children with Autism.
God is love.
You cannot do God’s work without God’s heart.
If a child walks through the doors of our church we cannot look the other way and hope they go away.
Children with special needs are not to be considered burdens.
They are gifts to be embraced.
Don’t hope they go away.
Back to the cave they’ve been hiding in.
Go and get them! Reach out to them.
Is it difficult?
Of course it is. But with the challenge comes the falling
flat on our faces and begging God for help.
Lead us. Show us how. Tell us how we can accommodate all who have special needs.
And He will too. He will show us.
Jeremiah 33:3 Call to Me and I answer. I will show you great and mighty things you do not know.
We are out there.
We want a place of solace. A refuge from the storm. The only place we can find that is in His presence. We want to be surrounded by a family. A church family who can embrace us.
Just. As. We. Are.
With our little gifts of heaven.
We want a church home.
We, the church, can’t do everything, but we can do something.
We can become the hands of Jesus.
Place His fingerprints of love all over their hearts.
Love with all you got.
If they leave our church feeling any less that, we the church have failed.
Failing is not an option.
The difference could literally mean life and death for some.
Love never fails.