The Autism Pastor: fear strips us of our humanity

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“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt.

By Lamar Hardwick

Fear is a funny thing. It is not easily defined. Fear can present itself in different ways for different people. Fear is universal, but fear isn’t uniform. Perhaps that’s why it is so difficult to get a grasp on how to identify it and how to deal with it. Fear is a motivator for change. In fact fear demands change. Fear fuels change. The problem with fear is that the change that it produces is always false. Fear cannot produce authentic change; only love can produce positive change. Fear cannot produce positive change, because fear is the opposite of love.

One of my favorite Bible stories as a child is found in the book of Daniel. We all know about the climactic fiery furnace scene in chapter three, but what were the series of events that led to King Nebuchadnezzar’s decision to throw the three men into the fire? In chapter two of the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that shakes him up to his core. No one in the King’s court could interpret his dream and after hearing about the King’s dilemma, Daniel hurried to see the King and asked for more time to tell the King what the dream meant. Eventually God gives Daniel the correct interpretation of the dream and here what Daniel says to King Nebuchadnezzar:

“Your Majesty, you are the greatest of kings. The God of heaven has given you sovereignty, power, strength, and honor. He has made you the ruler over all the inhabited world and has put even the wild animals and birds under your control. You are the head of gold. “But after your kingdom comes to an end, another kingdom, inferior to yours, will rise to take your place..”

So what does all this mean anyway? King Nebuchadnezzar, according to God, would be a pretty important and pretty influential leader in the world. History would record him as being one of the best leaders the world has ever seen, and all this was possible even though King Nebuchadnezzar was far from perfect. I mean the King wasn’t even real “good” guy by our modern day standards. The irony of it all is that despite his mistakes and his limitations, God establishes him as a great and historic leader, one whose kingdom can only be eclipsed by God’s Kingdom. If you ask me that makes Nebuchadnezzar a pretty special guy.

What happens next is subtle and yet it is standard for most people. The next chapter of the story finds the King erecting an image of gold that he wants the entire country to worship. The statue was whopping 90 feet tall and according to many scholars and Bible experts, King Nebuchadnezzar’s image was likely an image of himself. In Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s dream, only the statue’s head was gold. The golden head represented King Nebuchadnezzar, yet somehow in the next chapter of his life, he found himself dissatisfied with who God created him to be. The ninety foot golden image that he erected was the result of his greatest fear, the fear of not being enough.

We all share the same fear the Nebuchadnezzar wrestled with. Sometime between his original dream in chapter two and his creation of a ninety-foot image in chapter three, he was no longer convinced that he was enough. The result of his fear is the result of our fear. When we fear that we are not enough we create false images of ourselves, images that often over compensate for our deepest fear that no matter how good God thinks we are, it stops being enough for us.

Unfortunately I’ve lived with this fear for most of my life. When I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2014 I was faced with the critical decision of having to finally deal with my greatest fear. Like King Nebuchadnezzar, I spent my time and my resources creating a false image of myself that I wanted people to admire. As a child, teenager, and young adult I had grown accustomed to being someone that I was not in order to fit in and to get along with others, but the problem with false images is that they eventually cause you to lose sight of who you really are.

The apostle Paul has quite a bit of experience with change, I mean after all he went from Saul the murderer to Paul the missionary and his life change was a result of God’s love for him. Paul shares a bit of important advice with his young protégé Timothy that has helped me get over my own fear of not being enough and I’m hoping it will be equally as encouraging to you. “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7 NLT)

Fear is the opposite of God’s design for humanity, in fact fear actually strips us of our humanity. When we fear that we are not enough just the way that God created us, we fear being human altogether. That’s why it is important to pay attention to what Paul believes is our greatest weapon against the fear of not enough. God doesn’t give us fear, but God doesn’t necessarily give us courage either. Paul suggests that God gives us all of the ingredients necessary for cooking up the courage to stop the fear that drives into becoming someone God didn’t create us to be. What are the ingredients. Love, power, and a sound mind or as I like to put it God’s love, God’s abilities, and God’s wisdom.

Dealing with a disability or limitation of any kind can be a daunting task, but I believe that no matter how many down days we have we are enough because God is enough. We do not have to allow our fear of being inadequate to change us into something or someone that God has not created us to be. We are human and that’s the beauty of a journey with a disability, it serves as a reminder of the power of God’s love to help us to overcome our fear of not being enough and to embrace the reality that we have a purpose despite the fact that we are not perfect simply because God loves us.

“As we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid…” (1 John 4:17).

Stay Strong,
Lamar #autismpastor

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Lamar Hardwick is a pastor, preacher, teacher, and leader. He is a husband and father of 3 beautiful boys. His passion is for the local church and training leaders. His vision is to bridge the gap between faith and autism by empowering teaching church leaders how to provide spiritual care for those on the autistic spectrum and their families. Lamar was diagnosed with autism in 2014.

Lamar’s article is part of a new section on the Art of AutismThe Autism Shift about our shifting perceptions of autism.

2 Comments

  • It is wonderful to hear a Christian perspective on autism from an Aspie.

  • Deema says:

    This article, unfortunately, has several major flaws. The first is Roosevelt’s ridiculous quote. It ciuld not be more wrong. Fear keeps people alive, keeps ALL living things alive. The second is the statement that “according to God”. No, it is according to the book that people CLAIM is God’s spoken word. I am stunned that an aspie related site would assert that unverifiable rhetoric is fact. Third, it is the lumping of “fear” into one thing, when fear of being aspie or autistic is in no way the same fear as that of someone fearing the death of a family member or fearing a tiger that is chasing them. There are plwntt of othwr flaws but I have made my point

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