Autistic Love

I recently watched the film Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close for research purposes. I wasn’t expecting a major spiritual revelation to come about as a result of watching this, I just wanted to see their interpretation of Asperger’s Syndrome (“Disease” in the film) and see if I could recommend it as an accurate depiction. I had no idea what I was in for.

This post contains some SPOILERS for the movie, so if you’re planning on watching it because you know someone on the Autism spectrum then go and watch the movie first, then come back to this post and we’ll cry together. :’)

Things displayed by the child Oskar in the film which I could relate to both in my childhood and still in my adult life are: discomfort with loud noises, discomfort talking with people I don’t know, the need to analyze, fear of doing something wrong, fear of disapproval, and difficulty understanding/expressing emotions (other than frustration). In all of these categories I handle things significantly better now than when I was a child, at least in the sense that I can push past them for the most part to get done what needs to get done. There was some self-injury when I was a kid, but not since my teens. Temper tantrums were common as a child but declined as I matured, and today I can save my frustration to take out on virtual ninjas on the PS3.

Here’s where it gets emotional for me. There’s a scene where Oskar asks his mom, “I don’t tell you ‘I love you’ enough times, do I?” To which his mom proudly replies, “Yes, you do.”

Love is not completely foreign to me, but it is something I struggle with. It’s like Data from Star Trek: TNG, I don’t know that I can call it “love” but if a particular person were to suddenly be gone then I’d be keenly aware that something was missing.

For the first two decades of my life I never thought of my own mother as a person so much as something fulfilling the role of Mother. And even when I realized this, and felt that it was wrong, I didn’t know what I could do about it. I learned later on that she had actually been hiding her personality from the world – a personality which came out in recent years. We have a good friendship now. I realized that my misconception of her was not entirely the result of my autism, but I tend to assume that I’ve done something wrong.

After watching the movie I had dinner, finished off emails, kicked some ninja asses, then went to bed. It wasn’t until that quiet moment that I felt God say, “Do you get it now?”

I have some concerns about my Christian walk. There are plenty of commands about loving God with your whole being and above all else. But I don’t think I love God so much as I see him as something fulfilling the role of God, without which something would be missing. But I highly doubt that recognizing the necessity of a person or thing is the same as love. So I question that I’m really doing this Christian thing the way that I’m supposed to.

God spoke to me through the love of Oskar’s mother. She knows he tries, she knows he fails, she still loves him. He doesn’t think he’s enough, she says he is. He promises to be “normal”, that’s the last thing she wants. He says something hateful then comes back with “I didn’t really mean that” – she says “Yes you did” and loves him anyway.

I wish I were at the point that I could clearly see and love God’s personality, rather than simply express gratitude for what he’s done for me. But I no longer feel condemned for being where I am right now. God knows my weaknesses, he knows my heart, and he loves me anyway.

About benjaminfrog

Yo. I'm a 30-something Christian guy and published author with a love for gaming, fantasy and sci-fi. I blog about pop culture, living as a young Christian guy, and living with A.S.
This entry was posted in Autism, Personal, Spiritual and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Autistic Love

  1. Wow Ben, Thanks for sharing that! It’s posts like these that really make me step back and realize what a talented and profound author you are; and more importantly, make me take a look at myself and feel a desire/inspiration to contemplate where I am at with these same issues. Though I do not have asperger’s, I find I can relate to (and better understand) what you’re struggling with.
    Keep it up.

  2. C.L. Dyck says:

    “I don’t think I love God so much as I see him as something fulfilling the role of God, without which something would be missing. But I highly doubt that recognizing the necessity of a person or thing is the same as love.”

    In seventeen years of being a Christian, I’ve learned that this is actually a very, very common mindset among believers. The amazing thing to me is that God gifted you with a unique means of recognizing and naming it. That’s needful in the Body of Christ, and you have a role to play in building up the family of God, just as you are.

  3. Anna Sklar says:

    I’ve always known you love me, Ben, I’ve never doubted it for a moment. I believe you were the first one in our family to give a hug, to show affection, to be that vulnerable. This probably wasn’t a choice, just you being you. And your ways have paved other ways for all of us Colliers. Your faith has paved ways for us all as well – you never once lost your faith. You have a great gentleness about you – our daddy has the same gentleness, that same openness. I learned last week while teaching little ones at camp about the Fruit of the Spirit – gentleness is quietly putting God’s love into action. Yes, you have great love, great gentleness, and a warrior’s heart. I’ve watched you (and dad) quietly come alongside my sons and live out missions of intense importance in the woods behind your home – you defeated bad guys and played with swords and light sabers and grew their noble hearts at least a little with every scenario! And I’ve watched you care for your animals and sit beside me when I’m sad or lonely or just down. You’ve laughed with me when I’m happy and accepted my spontaneous exclaimations of glee with a smirk and a knowing glance – that’s just Anna and I love her for who she is. Words are not always needed – you know that saying that goes “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” That makes me think of our family and how we love each other. Tons of action – maybe not alot of words – and that’s just us.
    Didn’t mean to write all that… especially since I have to finish packing and come visit you today!! See you later, bro…

  4. benjaminfrog says:

    This evidently became part of a larger discussion going on between a number of bloggers. C.L. Dyck wrote her thoughts here:

    Thanks again for your encouragement, Cat. 🙂

  5. lauraalexander21 says:

    Thank you Ben, for sharing your experience and perspective. I feel like I just received a very privileged glance into your mind.
    I’m very thankful God created you just the way you are. I learn so much from you.

  6. I’m so proud of the man you are. So blessed to call you my son.

  7. Christy Ford says:

    In tears after reading this. That’s exactly how I feel, how I’ve always felt. Nice to know I’m not alone in this. Being a Christian and an Aspie, it’s so confusing sometimes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s