Living in the world of spiritual autism

If you had a toothache but could not tell anyone, what would you do?

I suspect you’d act in ways that don’t make sense to other people. You might even seem a bit weird or scary.

The majority of people in our world are walking around with spiritual toothaches that they cannot describe or name. They can’t articulate their pain. They struggle to locate it. They don’t know what a “tooth” is.

Those of us who have come to live in the world shaped by autism and related conditions are familiar with what is called sensory integration disorder. It is when the nervous system can’t process sensory information in the way it does for those of us without the condition. It may express itself in many different ways. But when coupled with the communication challenges that often come with autism, it means a person experiences pain in ways that those outside can understand only in part and often only with great attention and imagination.

I think, in a way, we are born into the world with a kind of spiritual autism and spiritual integration disorder. So much of what we do looks to us like normal behavior; indeed, it is all we can do. But it turns out that from God’s point of view our “nervous system” is not working properly.

I’m not sold on this analogy. I’m prepared to abandon it. But I’m trying it on for size for the moment. I am wondering if this might be a way of describing what Wesley called “the natural state,” the life we live when we are ignorant of God and deaf to grace. I wonder if the effect of original sin might be the crossing of our spiritual wires in ways that we are not ourselves able to explain.

Fixing it takes grace and patience and persistence. Most of all, it takes God.

I don’t know.

The analogy may not hold.

But it is on my heart and mind tonight.


2 thoughts on “Living in the world of spiritual autism

  1. I do not mean to be flip about this at all – so if it comes across that way, I apologize. I think we could all use (okay – I could use) some more spiritual integration disorder in my own life. We live in a day and age spoken of often as “the age of information” – unfortunately that is not congruent with “the age of wisdom.” The friends I have who are autistic teach me a whole lot about trying to focus on a few things that really matter to them – while trying to block out all the other noise from around them. There are many things about that which I find incredibly healthy and instructive. The challenge for my friends is that the world is not as receptive to people who are wired in this (what I think of as healthy) way.

Comments are closed.