Living With Autism: My Typical Worship Service Experience

This is a short post in between Part 2 and 3 of my Living With Autism series to give you a glimpse of what my experience is like with my mind in a particular setting, told in a narrative form.  Hopefully this is informative enough.

My mother tells the congregation to stand, which includes myself.  I stand, feeling rather jittery as the words to the first song pops up on the two flatscreen TVs on both sides of the front.  I concentrate on the worship team, my eyes bouncing from each individual team member to the next.  I look up at the screen on my left, which makes sense because I’m left-handed.  I barely look at the screen on my right.  One part of my mind knows that it’s time for worship, and transmits some vague thoughts about God and Jesus.  My lips are moving and I’m (kind of) singing, but there’s no passion or emotion in my voice.  My thoughts of God can’t completely dominate my thoughts.  My mind is scrolling through too many other thoughts and pictures.  I can see glimpses of one of my favorite web shows playing themselves in my head, and many individual thoughts from many different sources play out in my head, and my mind will sometimes go back to previous ones obsessively.  All of them are thoughts of fiction and sometimes made-up scenarios involving myself and other people in my life.  I look around at the other people singing.  I look over my shoulder at the people singing behind me and I glance at the clock on the wall.

The tone of the music shifts, and the worship team has moved on to slower songs.  My mind processes the change of tone in the music and my thoughts slow down at will, but they are still not fully concentrated on the purpose of the moment.  My mind forms images that reflects my imagination for certain stories I’m currently working on.  My mind decides it’s time to continue brainstorming, but because of everything else going on around me, it can’t make any progress.  So I’m basically too distracted to worship but I’m also too distracted to think clearly.  I shoot a look (sometimes a long one) at the people walking up to the front to take communion.  I look every person up and down and my thoughts continue wandering on their random parade.  I shut my eyes to try and concentrate on what’s happening presently.  It’s worship after all.  But when I shut my eyes, it doesn’t shut out my long string of thoughts.  In fact, they can be seen clearer now, causing me to submit to them and cut myself off from reality.  The only thing that’s noticed is the tone of the music, which determines the pacing and the mood of my thoughts, which run rampant, each visual lasting about one second before moving onto the next one and the next one and so forth.  There’s too much noise.  Everyone around me is singing and I can’t concentrate on my own singing.

Worship ends and I think back on it later feeling disappointed and somewhat sad.  I take a walk or sit in my room listening to worship and singing again.  I can sing with passion then.  I can feel a greater connection with my Creator at these times than I ever do in a worship service.  In a worship service, I can’t concentrate and I want it all to end.  I want the worship to stop so that I can sit down and not have to wrestle anymore.  I’ve tried, believe me.  This is a struggle I face every Sunday when I’m in ‘big church’, and has been the case for years.  I consider myself to be a private worshipper because I feel like I get more done that way.  If that’s the way it’s meant to be for me, if that’s how my mind works, then I can’t continue to feel sad or feel disappointed with myself.  I’m grateful that there is at least some way I can connect with God, even if it isn’t in a public worship service.

5 thoughts on “Living With Autism: My Typical Worship Service Experience”

  1. I agree with you Forrest. God is just fine with the way your mind functions. So no need to feel sad or disappointed in yourself. I’m soooo glad you experience Him in private worship.

    I wonder what God would like you to do during public worship time, since we agree He doesn’t want you to be unhappy with yourself. How about seeking Him on that question? Maybe you can share with us what happens next. 🙂

    Shalom.

    1. Thank you Cherie. You know what, as far the ‘what happens next’ phase goes, that’s still a learning experience I’m going through right now. I’d like to be able to do SOMETHING during public worship. I kind of thought that maybe during the slower songs I should find a place to sit and just read the Bible while using the tone of the music to help me focus on the words in the Bible. That was something that came to mind.

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