Fellowship without fear

It’s Fall here in Georgia. In honor of the (finally!) cooler temperatures, I scheduled a visit to the sunflower/pumpkin patch with my friend. It’s not too far from us, only about 40 minute drive. It’s free to get in, and the only thing you pay for are any pumpkins or sunflower cuttings you might want. It should be a fun morning. I’m envisioning us to grab a coffee, enjoy a nice drive out there, stroll in the crisp air, take LOTS of photos, and have a relaxing drive back.

The previous social engagement I scheduled was with this same friend … last December. Does it seem strange to you that I have social outings only twice per year, or ten months apart? Not to me. It’s normal, and the pace is perfect.

I’m autistic and most weekends and evenings I spend recovering from the day and the week alone at home. In the silence. The bewildering aspects of sociability, the noise of being among people, the nasty surprises like a bell going off or a car alarm blaring, wear on me like I’m cheese on a cheese grater. By the end of the day every last nerve is whittled down, my body is actually throbbing in pain, and I’m near tears.

Not that I don’t enjoy people, I do. Most times I enjoy a witty remark, a pleasant exchange, or just seeing what people wear or what they brought for lunch. I like the people I work with and I love the children. It’s just that by the end of the day it’s sensory overload. I need time to recuperate.

It’s also that I don’t really want to have lengths of time with people. Though it’s true that sometimes I really don’t, other times I think it might be nice to do so. Whether that flickering desire stems from a genuine level of empathy or friendliness, or I’m just succumbing to a social pressure to do something most people enjoy, I don’t know. Being a typical Aspergers person I don’t care. The thought is fleeting and then I’m on to more serious pursuits.

But then…I read things like this in the Bible:

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, (Acts 2:46)

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. (John 2:1-2)

And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. (Mark 2:15).

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, the hometown of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. So they hosted a dinner for Jesus there. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him. (John 12:1-2)

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. (Acts 2:44)

The Bible shows us that there were gatherings in the Lord’s name and friendships and dinners and parties and weddings and banquets. The Bible is strong on gathering together, fellowship with like-minded believers, koinonia, service, hospitality and building each other up. So avoiding any and all gatherings is not an option. Church going and small talk afterward, being a member of a small group study, and joining the occasional all-church gathering is important. I do so because it’s commanded and I seek to honor the Lord. I just wish it wasn’t so painful.

Well, someday it won’t be!

In heaven the fellowship will be without limits, without fears, without any negatives at all. I can’t imagine how it will be to be freed from the distress of social interaction. Talking will be full of meaning because it will center on Jesus without reservation and without error. The sweetness of being together will be fully realized as we visibly see our selves as His body and visibly see Him as the Head.

I suppose I will still have the same autistic brain since He made me this way in the first place. I am guessing that even in heaven there will be those people there who are more gregarious and those who are more shy. We will retain our personality after all, but without the underlying cause being fear, or distress, or anxiety. I’m looking forward to visiting with martyrs, Apostles, heroes, and all the rest of the laypeople who comprise His redeemed church in a sweet fellowship devoid of anything negative and wholly saturated with glory, goodness, and joy.