Dreading Church

I dread going to church.

I have not always felt this way. I was a born and raised a church girl. My childhood was delightfully filled with potlucks and pews.

I loved church.

I grew up and married a man who also loved church.

We had two babies and took them to church.

When our first daughter, Alaina was three she was diagnosed with autism.

We sat in the office of the psychologist on a Wednesday. Our known world was falling apart, but we discovered that church was still there. And we were back that Sunday.

Going to church was always the best part of our week. While our daughter was happily entertained with the nursery kitchen set, my husband and I actually sat together for an uninterrupted hour. For the first time of the week, our thoughts did not center around diets, oxygen chambers, and flashcard drills.

Going to church was always an easy part of our lives.

But now it is not easy.

Alaina is 13. Since the onset of puberty, her capacity of being in public places has dramatically decreased. She has become increasingly sensitive to sounds and people. Plates at restaurants are too loud, the ice at Starbucks is too loud, the kids at the park and the library are too loud.

If something is too loud, Alaina goes bonkers. Head hits, pinching, biting, and convulsing on the floor are her top expressions of her frustrations.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity. We mostly stay home.

Except for Church.

We still go to church.

Church is very loud and very crowded. The kitchen set in the nursery is no longer appropriate for a 13 year old who will beat her head repetitively if some toddler is too loud when he asks for more animal crackers.

And though we faithfully go every Sunday, I dread it.

I dread passing the playground on the way to the sanctuary where one overly excited kid on the swings can send our daughter back screaming to the car.

I dread the lobby full of happy greeters that will try to talk to us and engage us with bulletins when we just need to get to our seats in the dark sanctuary before our daughter throws herself to the floor.

I dread the unassuming new guy who sits in my daughter’s favorite back row seat, thus having us sit in a totally different place.

I dread a worship set list that is full of slow, quiet songs that will not drown out my daughters loud outbursts.

Mostly, I dread the wave of despair that can creep into my heart when I look around and wonder why my faithful, church girl life was slammed with autism.

But with the dread that comes every Sunday morning, there is something else.

Stronger than the dread.

It is determination.

I am determined to live a life that believes that church is more than programs and praise choruses. It is more than an institution in which I can’t come unless our family is perfect and quiet. I am determined to believe that God wants and invites a family like mine to find healing, comfort, and strength.

I am determined to walk into that church each Sunday, stand up, sing, praise and pray. Because in the midst of my Sunday dread, or my daughter chewing on my hair while I am trying to worship, I am declaring; Autism you have not won.

I am still standing.

Still singing.

Still trusting.

I am determined to be reminder to pastors, staff and leaders to have a welcoming environment that supports the special needs family.

I am determined to be a comforting sight to the autism family who makes the big effort to show up at my church someday and find such relief that they are not alone.

I am determined to remember that when I can’t stand up, clap and sing, because I am hunched over in my chair weeping, the peace that passes understanding will find and fill my broken heart once again.

Written by, Kristin Pattison

Kristin Pattison and her husband raise their two beautiful daughters in Arizona.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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  • L

    July 3, 2018 at 1:05 pm
    Reply

    "When my heart is overwhelmed lead me to the Rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:2). Blessings to you.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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