How if found my Christian Faith is a difficult question to answer. I don’t think I can completely explain it in a blog as I believe God has to seek us as well. Though I believe God’s invitation is initially open to everyone. There isn’t a 5 step programme in becoming Christian. Many Christians find Faith in different ways. Most Christians experience Faith differently and in diverse ways if you read the long list of denominations. Some people are brought up with the Bible in Christian families others like me find their Faith later on in life.
It’s popular today for many people to begin their faith journey by doing an Alpha course at a local church. The Alpha course is an evangelistic course which seeks to introduce the basics of the Christian Faith through a series of talks and discussions. I never did an Alpha course though in hindsight I would have liked to if I hadn’t had so much social anxiety and general worries about being Gay. I could easily attend one at my local Church today though I have done so much study and participated many times in sacraments including communion and baptism that I doubt there would be as much benefit.
I’ve always tried really hard to be a good person. As I mentioned in my baptism profession of faith, my Mother was brought up Catholic and the Christian values of respect, kindness, patience and love were important to us. I believe being Autistic has made me very honest and intelligent which led me to discover human rights as a teenager. I’ve always felt Human Rights are the most important values to uphold for all humans irrespective of your spiritual or philosophical beliefs.
I have blogged before how my journey towards Christian Faith began after ECT in 2015 when I began running with my interest in Superman. I was having so many breakdowns since 2010 it was clear I couldn’t work, I wanted to lose weight from the effect of the medications and to build resiliency. I wanted to raise money for a mental health peer support group I was involved in and looked for as much help as I could get to overcome increasingly longer distances all the way up to a marathon. Before I knew it Christian motivational speakers on YouTube and verses from the Bible (to me they were just logical quotes, paraphrases or soundbites at the time) were giving me strength.
It’s important to stress during 2016-20 I was still having major issues in my life. My Mum died of cancer in 2017 and my stepdad died of cancer and stroke in 2019. I had no one. I was in and out of psychiatric hospitals with episodes of psychosis and low and high moods. Income at times was very tight as I wasn’t eligible for as much social security (benefits) as I am at present (I hope this continues!). I was even trying to keep unsuitable part time jobs for periods to make the income up but I kept relapsing. Sometimes I was gaslight and abused by psychiatric services.
For many years prior to my ECT in 2015 I was trying to understand the world. I read many books on Capitalism and Economics. I had studied Economics at A Level and almost chose to do a degree in it (I studied a BSC in Computer Science and worked with Computers). The more I got to know, the more depressed I got about the world and with the Climate crisis I felt things were going to become awful. It’s fair to say I had an existential crisis besides a diagnosed psychiatric condition.
After 2010 I was trying to “fix” my psychiatric disorder. I studied psychiatry’s Bible the DIagnostic and Statical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to understand my problems and feed back to my psychiatrist. In hindsight I wished I had paid more attention to Autism Spectrum Disorder but my psychiatrist saw Schizoaffective Disorder so I was diagnosed with that in 2012 before Autism in 2019.
I felt I could still overcome my circumstances so I read many books on Psychology including CBT, Mindfullness and ACT. I did much individual and group therapy including a short course of DBT. I participated in psychoeducational courses as well. Eventually I did a Postgraduate Certificate in Mental Health Recovery and Social Inclusion (online) with a University, from home, part-time for a year. I found an interest in Philosophy and particularly found reading about Stoicism helpful in coping. Stoicism predates Christianity and was popular among the Ancient Greeks and Roman Empire.
Around 2018 I read that the English King James Bible was the definitive text of the Bible. I got a copy of it for my Kindle but I found it really hard to grasp. I decided I needed to start like a child. I really like comic book characters like Superman so discovering a graphic novel of some of the stories of the Bible was really exciting for me. They helped me get a gist of the biblical stories and narratives. Though they weren’t verse for verse and given the Bible uses allegory and metaphor some of it is down to the readers interpretation.
By 2019 I had done much reading thanks to interest, my course, better medication and perhaps God. I even researched Buddism as I found mindfulness had been helpful. I even had a copy of the Q’uran but that wasn’t for me either. I had some spiritual experiences from training to do Marathons and even said my first prayer before I completed my first Marathon. After my prayer was answered, I completed multiple marathons that year and started to privately identify as Christian.
In 2020 the pandemic hit, I became more isolated, stopped running but continued much reading. I was still being admitted to psychiatric hospitals. My psychiatric history is another story to tell. Suffice to say I was admitted to hospital again this year – It’s became normal to me.
I obtained a NIV Rainbow Study Bible. It was more comprehendible as it was translated in the 20th century. I soon discovered the King James Bible was a translation of the 16th Century using Shakespeare like Old English. The Rainbow Bible also colour coded the verses into Discipleship, Outreach, God, Salvation, Love, Commandments, Family, Faith, Prophecy, Evil, Sin and History. The problem was it wasn’t very portable to read so I only read small parts of it mostly. You can’t sit down with it on your lap easily for reading sessions. The Bible is a very long book so it would take a long time to read it all.
I bought my boyfriend a smaller NIV Bible that I put on his bookcase and forgot about it. My life was reasonably going well with my boyfriend in 2021 so I didn’t read the Bible much but he did know I was Christian. I had another psychiatric episode in 2022. I had been living with my boyfriend for 6 months and he chose to end the relationship while I was in hospital. He returned my smaller hardback NIV Bible to me in hospital but kept my things at his home for storage. I was made homeless.
I spent 4 and half months homeless in hospital and a further 2 months in a hotel before I was found a home in the private sector by the council. I realised in hospital I needed to “Concrete” my Christian Faith if I was to ensure my section didn’t get extended beyond the initial 6 weeks of my stay. I didn’t want to be stuck in hospital forever like the 2,000 other Autistic adults in the UK.
I knew I was in it for the long haul as finding a home for people like me is considered of very ultra low importance. Meeting new psychiatric patients every week is very distressing as are the daily protocols and procedures of a hospital. I had to have my blood pressure measured 4-5 times a day, meals and medication at set times. I needed staff to use the laundry, get towels, have a shave, charge my phone, eat meals and take my pills. Many items were forbidden as things like Flowers and phone chargers were deemed a threat to life. They were short staffed too which made the simplest things really hard work. I remember tweeting that the experience made me think of a book I once read by a prisoner in a concentration camp during the Holocaust called ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frank.
I had so much time and needed to lean on my Faith to cope. My copy of the NIV Bible at 1,500 pages seemed like the perfect answer. It was.
I initially started with reading the Pentateuch of the Bible in the Old Testament and The gospels about Jesus in the New Testament concurrently. The Pentateuch includes the first five books of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The gospels about Jesus are in the book of Mathew, Mark, John and Luke.
I realised reading scripture was very heavy reading to do all day so I tried to diversify my experience. I would watch movies I rented from Amazon on tablet using the hospital WIFI. The movies aren’t exactly true as according to the Bible but they provided much insight and entertainment to me. These were the movies I watched.
|Movie||Books In the Bible|
|Joseph: King of Dreams||Genesis|
|Exodos: Gods and Kings||Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy|
|The Prince of Egypt||Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy|
|The Greatest Story Ever Told||Mathew, Mark, John and Luke|
|The Passion of Christ||Mathew, Mark, John and Luke|
|Paul Apostle of Christ||ACTs and Letters in the New Testament by Paul|
|The Book of Eli||None. Just entertaining.|
I also discovered the Bible Project on YouTube which had it’s own interpretation of the Bible. They had lots of short animations with series on how to read the bible, summaries of books in the Old Testament and New Testament, and themes in the Bible. Some of their podcasts also went in more depth. This seemed to really help me get some understanding.
In hospital I read much of the New Testament and wisdom literature of the Old Testament. I ended up collecting more Christian books. This included a Bible Concordance, a university textbook on Christian Theology and NIV Bible commentary of all books in the Bible. The Concordance simply tells you where certain phrases in the Bible occur. The NIV Bible commentary was particularly useful to read after reading the relevant book in the Bible. It provided a good summary and extra insight which was an alternative perspective to the Bible project. Sometimes I did look for Biblical answers in Google and this was where my research skills from my PG Cert were useful as I knew how to understand, organise and interpret sources appropriately.
Once I came out of hospital in July 2022 I found a Church. I began going to the Sunday communion services and still do to this day. I have got to know some kind people and this has helped me find faith in ways I cannot yet express. For one at least is a sense of belonging and the Church as my Temple (a safe holy place). I was baptised at this Church in May 2023.
Since having a home from September 2022 I discovered the Word for Word Bible Comic which attempts to do a word-to-word comic of many books in the Bible more successfully than the Children’s Graphic Novel. I have some digital editions of these for my tablet. I have been watching pre-recorded videos of a talk about the Book of Romans from my Church (Initially I went to the Church to see some of them in-person). I also read much of Theology and related books which I have described here (1, 2, 3, 4).
At the moment I have a set routine every evening where I do 2 chapters of the New Testament from the NIV Bible, 2 chapters of the Psalms from the King James Bible and 2 Chapters of Proverbs from the English Standard Version Bible. Afterwards sometimes with Jam and Toast where the Jam represents the blood of Christ and the Bread the Body of Christ I will say a prayer. I sometimes talk to Christ about my day, thank him for my life being so fortunate and say prayers for other people.
I hope my attempt to tell you my faith journey can inspire you in your faith journey or perhaps help you get started. It can be very hard for people with Autism and with mental distress to find faith. There are all kinds of barriers on Earth. Church’s aren’t always accessible. They can be noisy places for one and overwhelming for social anxiety. Mental health services aren’t understanding when it comes to spiritual needs.
I wish you well and God bless.