Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Possibilities of a Disability

A few days ago, a fellow pastor asked me if I wanted be a senior pastor.  When I first heard it, I was a bit taken aback.  Ever since I had my diagnosis of Aspergers, I had decided that maybe being a solo or even senior pastor was out of the questions.  I knew that they way my brain worked and some past experiences made me think that I could never be a the only pastor at a church.  Indeed, someone in small group who also has Aspergers wondered aloud how I could be a pastor at all.

But now I'm starting to wonder if maybe I have limited myself too quickly.  Maybe I could be a solo pastor somewhere.

What has me thinking differently is this video by John Elder Robison for his second book, Be Different.  I enjoyed his first book, Look Me In the Eye, so I'm really looking forward to this new one.  The main point of his trailer is that even though those of us who are autistic might have roadblocks in our lives, we shouldn't sell ourselves short.  There is a lot that we can do, it's just that we do it differently.

Since my diagnosis, I've focused on my limits. In some ways, this is a good thing to point: I mean, you need to realize that you aren't going to be good at everything.

But the thing is, I still can be a pastor and a damn good one at that- it's just that I tend to do things a bit differently than other pastors.

What's so good about being a pastor who has trouble with executive function or social skills?  Well, it's still a question I'm trying to answer, but I think that my time at First has taught me I can do a hell of a lot.  I've been able to use my creativity to the benefit of the wider community.  I've learned how to be able to simply let people talk ( for some reason, people like to talk to pastors).  I've also just learned how to be able to engage in small talk.  I also think I'm able to see ideas no one else can see. 

I could say that my time at First has helped me become more "human," but I would like to think that I've also helped others at the church get in touch with their humanity as well.

Of course from the standpoint of faith, I am reminded that God constantly used people who on the outside didn't seem up to the job.  Moses supposedly had a speech problem and still led his people out of Egypt.  Gideon was a scaredy cat and led an army that defeated an enemy exponentially bigger than his army, the disciples of Jesus included people who weren't very smart and yet they were the ones that established the church. 

I've known all this for years, but I haven't yet let it sink into me.  Partly its because of my history, where I was always making mistakes and running around like a bull in a china shop.  I allowed myself to think I wasn't of any value, that I was a bit of a mess.

And I still am a bit of a mess, but I'm getting better.  I know I have skills and talents.  My autism can be a gift, it can be something that is an asset and not simply a demerit.

I'm still on a journey to learn about the gifts of an autistic pastor.  I don't have all the answers, but let's just say I'm a lot more open these days to a future solo pastorate than I was even a week ago.

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