Throughout life, we experience many highs, and of course, plenty of lows, all for many different reasons. Being a committed catholic I am a firm believer in God who can rely on him in times of difficulty and uncertainty. We will all, no doubt, have periods of stress and anxiety. It is a fact of life, and always will be.
Having an autism spectrum disorder brings many testing times for those with such a disorder, and for close family and friends. One important thing I struggled with was making and maintaining friendships. In case you don't know, autism is a condition which affects how one relates to other people, and how they may see and interact with the world in general.
More often than not, there were periods in school and sixth form college when I would be on my own. Sometimes I found it difficult to see how I could fit in with other people. I understood I was different in some way, but was worried about how other people may judge me.
It was hard noticing and hearing other people having good times together, chatting and laughing about recent events they may have witnessed, along with plans for outings in days, weeks and months to come.
From the mid 1990s for a number of years, I attended an annual New Dawn Conference at Walsingham in Norfolk, UK, finding it to be a non-judgemental environment. For me, it was a place where one could experience the power of God’s presence and influence upon us.
Looking back on these occasions, I saw them as opportunities to get together with people of my age group and who lived near to me, and get friendly with people who resided elsewhere in the UK. When I returned home I felt changed, ready to face situations, particularly those involving interacting with other people which presented great challenges to me in the past, with newly found confidence and belief.
When I think of saints, I often think of Michael, the Archangel. I admire his prayer for protection, which I believe, gives me the courage and belief to face up to challenges I may experience in my life, particular ones that may cause me anxiety. I also imagine him shining a light down from heaven on the path to take when I'm wondering what direction to go in.
Acknowledge him and he’ll make your paths straight
Scoring bad marks in important exams and tests and seeing other students achieve spectacularly high results might leave you feeling at an all time low that it seems like the end of the world.
It was difficult for me knowing I had to spend at least another year retaking GCSEs at sixth form before going on to do advanced level courses, which I achieved at the first time of asking. Relieved, I spent two years doing 'A' levels at sixth form, experiencing similar feelings compared to when I got my GCSE results when I left school at 16.
Once the disappointment of my results on both occasions died down, the way I looked at exam and test results was to liken them to signposts from God, pointing in the direction he wanted my life to go in. Always acknowledge and be thankful to him in all circumstances, and he will make your paths straight, leading you on your own and unique way to happiness, positivity and vocation in life.
God has a plan for you throughout your life, so don't get too downhearted if some of the things you longed for don't work out as you would have liked. It's in his will and what he knows will be best for you. We're all unique in our own right. Remember the line from the Lord's prayer named the Our Father, 'Thy will be done on', which is, in effect 'Let your will be done'.
Cast your burdens over to God
Over time my personal difficulties have waned as I casted them onto God, who's taken care of them, enabling me to tackle any challenging situations so that I can get along in life better, and have a better chance of realising my true potential.
Because of my musical talent I felt God calling me to play for the church orchestra at my local parish and that, combined with becoming a member of a prayer group with people my age group there, meant numerous opportunities for me to call upon the power of his presence and influences, and establish long lasting relationships with other group members there, which included social gatherings such as birthday parties.
School isn’t just about aiming to be successful from an academic point of view. There is the important aspect of learning how to develop spiritually too. We need to learn about how to be sensitive to the needs of others, understand the differences between right and wrong, and how to grow into being responsible people. God is always there in times of difficulty and uncertainty, rewarding us when we do what’s right and, most of all, ready to forgive us whenever we do wrong.
Children at all schools are 'Lamps to be lit', according to a good friend of mine. Children whose lamps are lit for me refers to the light of Christ shining and that Jesus is alive and working in them. This leads me onto another important fact, light always dispels the darkness, which can be linked to the conquering of evil.
For me situations like these should create not only warm, welcoming and caring settings, but joyful Christian communities. It is in settings like these, I believe, that everyone would have the best possible chance of succeeding, not just academically, but more importantly, from spiritual and social points of view as well. We must know that we're all children of God.
Prayer and faith, in hindsight can be a very powerful and wonderful combination, without it advancement can be hard to make, so don't allow any obstacles to get in your way. What I learned here was, the results of prayer in times of need may be immediate, sometimes it may not, but don't give up hope.
Jesus shares all the suffering, pains and burdens that we carry, and wants to bring life, forgiveness and healing to all his hurting people through us. I've already bore pains in the form of my personal difficulties which, I believe, are a lot less now than what they once were.
In that I can see good being drawn out of my suffering and, long may it continue, God willing. My aim is to share it in this project in the hope others, who experienced, and may be experiencing similar difficulties to myself and my close family, may benefit.
You may wonder why there is pain and suffering to endure in the world. To me, God allows for pain and suffering but draws good out of it. Bear the pains of this world like Jesus did, to find out where wounds and sins are. If you're ever worried about anything, think about this phrase Jesus said, “Fear not, I am with you.”
And Remember a quote by Willa Cather , “Where there is great love, there are miracles.”
Conclusion: A Deeper Dive
Thank you for joining me on this exploration of faith and autism. As I wrap up this post, I invite you to delve even deeper into the conversation through my podcast episode below
In this particular episode, I share more personal insights, delve into the intersections of faith and autism, and explore the transformative power that has helped shape my journey.
Ready to listen? Click below to embark on this audio journey with me.