Saturday, April 05, 2008

Rev. Misfit

It's kinda odd to share this with people, but I guess I will throw it out there and see what happens.

For many years, work and finding work has just been a disaster. Jobs would end badly, I'd get in trouble for some reason. I thought once I got into seminary and then ordained, things would get better for me. But they didn't. My first job was as a youth pastor at a local congregation. Ended badly. Then another position...same result. Even before that, I was interning at a local church and there were some rough patches there too.

In 2004, I took a job as a law clerk in a big Minneapolis firm. Again, it was disasterous. The problem, as it was in past experiences was that I didn't pick up the unwritten expectations of people. For me, life was suspossed to be logical and make sense and in many of these situations, they were far from logical. I kept stepping on people's toes without really knowing I was doing it.

Take the first job at a church in 2002. I interviewed and took that job of youth pastor, but then asked things about pay that I should have asked before I took the job. I didn't understand why the people responded with anger when I was just presenting information.

All of these experiences led me to start thinking I was a bad pastor. I have lived with the feeling that something was wrong with me and it made me afraid to do ministry. I started to see church as this minefield where if I made the wrong step, someone would blow up in my face.

Another strange thing happened along the way. I found my current job as the IT/Communications person for the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area. It's been fun, because I get to be behind a computer all day and design websites and layout the newsletter. Because this has been so good for me, it make me wonder: why is this job working when others haven't?

About a year ago, I started to think that something was different about me. But now I was seeking a medical solution. For a while I've read and heard stuff about adults with autism or Aspergers Syndrome. For some reason, every time I've heard that, I've felt in my gut that this is me. Maybe.

It's funny, because when I remember hearing about autism, I remember that kid from the 80s tv show "St. Elsewhere," who didn't do anything. I wasn't that.

But, I've started to hear of people who have autism or AS and aren't catatonic. It's interesting that all the stories I've heard about Asperger's relate to being an odd duck, like being an alien on a planet.

The thing is, I've always been a guy that's missed social cues. My first boyfriend and now best friend would note that when he was all lovey dovey, I wouldn't get it. It took me a while to get jokes and I take everything very literally. Flirting made no sense to me, and in some way it still doesn't. Neither does small talk. Dating has always been somewhat of a trial.

I've been reading the book "Look Me In the Eye" by John Elder Robison. (He's the brother of one of my favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs.) He has Aspergers and he tells his story. While I didn't have a life like his, there were some similarities.

So, I am going to see if I can find a professional to get tested and know for sure. I guess I need to know if this is why employment has been such a bitch for me.

Hell, it might explain why growing up was so damn difficult.

Of course, one question I always have is, how in the world can one be a pastor with Asperger's? I mean, most pastors have to read people like a book and learn to engage in small talk. I can do the big things, like preaching and leading worship, but can one be an "aspie" and a pastor? I've tried to see if there is anything on pastors with Asperger's, but I can't find anything. Hopefully someone out there has an answer.

So, I will keep all 5 of you who read my blog updated. I just want to know that I am not the bad person I have made myself out to be.

1 comment:

Feral Pastor said...

Hey, Dennis -

I have a young nephew who has Aspergers so I know a bit about what you're describing. I think it's a good idea for you to look into it, since it seems to you like something that helps to make sense out of a pretty wide range of experiences. As to pastoring with it, I can only think that being able to name it for people that way would be a giant help so they could cut you whatever slack you might need an more importantly, avoid misinterpreting things they experience with you. So go for it! I'll be looking forward to hearing about whatever you learn.

Blessings -