Georgia Pastor and Author, Lamar Hardwick, Shares How He Leverages His Autism for Pastoral Ministry

Georgia Pastor and Author, Lamar Hardwick, Shares How He Leverages His Autism for Pastoral Ministry

My life-changing diagnosis forced me to learn myself—and my ministry role—all over again.

On Monday, December 22, 2014, I walked into the office of my therapist. I sat down on her couch with my wife by my side. I took a long deep breath and slowly exhaled, waiting for answers to my 36-year-long question. She grabbed her clip board, glanced over the assessments we had completed in weeks prior, looked me in the eye, and uttered three words that changed my life: “autism spectrum disorder.” While the diagnosis didn’t change who I was, it did change my understanding of who I had been. In many ways, I have spent the years since that diagnosis learning myself all over again.

As early as seven years old, I was self-conscious about the differences between other children my age and me. I had difficulty understanding other people, and they had equal difficulty understanding me. It felt like the entire world was sharing an inside joke that I did not understand.

I was extremely stubborn, more so than other children my age. I struggled with change. Simple shifts in schedules or environments put me on edge. I operated with a robotically calculated persona. I took almost everything literally. Teachers discovered that I had been having accidents on the playground for weeks during my lunch period because I took the instructions of teachers literally when they told us the building was “not open until the bell rings.”

In the midst of social and educational struggles, I was often characterized as weak, weird, or just plain wrong. I was bullied by peers, by teachers, and on occasion by other parents because I seemed strange, stoic, and sometimes rude or arrogant. I became afraid of people, and at the age of 14, I turned to drugs and alcohol to cope.

In my first year of college, I decided to leave the life of drugs and alcohol behind me. A near-fatal car accident caused me to re-evaluate my lifestyle and recommit my life to Christ. As a result, I grew more and more successful in school, but I silently continued pretending to be someone that I was not created to be. It was decades before the therapist appointment in which I discovered the language to describe my life.

Adults who grow up with undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder learn how to blend in as a matter of survival. In my early adult years, I did this successfully. I learned how to mimic the behaviors, attitudes, and opinions of others so that I could have a shot at being “normal.”

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Lamar Hardwick