The last few months, my family made a conscious decision to only have home church and not attend our regular ward. We were trying to help my high-functioning autistic son work some things out. But during that time, I remembered what it was like when I was inactive years ago. And honestly, we were inactive during this time, too. And some interesting things happened to my soul.
First, during this period of being inactive, I felt profound loneliness. I didn’t realize how much I relied on the congregation for social support and friendship. I even remember driving past the neighborhood park and seeing a great party going on. When I looked closer, I realized it was a ward activity that I had heard nothing about! It was super depressing to realize I was missing out on a fun time with people I love.
Often at church, I make plans with friends for the week. The ward socials get put on the calendar and I get to catch up with ladies in the hallway. Without regular attendance, all of that fell away. I was left with only my family activities and chores. There was no lack of activity, as you know, since families are busy as kids grow up and things change. But it was more to-do lists and less relaxing social time.
Second, the Spirit wasn’t in our home as often. We still had home church, and during that time the Spirit was there. But I wasn’t being spiritually fed like I needed to be, so much more often than I like to admit, the Spirit wasn’t there. It made my husband and I cranky and our child was willful and disobedient more than usual. I found fights were easy and peace was harder to maintain.
I felt a deep dissatisfaction with my life, my home, my family, and pretty much everything. One of my weaknesses is that I am dazzled by big, shiny, new houses. Our area has a ton of new construction going on right now, and every new house seemed to call my name. Even though I knew deep in my heart that we were exactly where we need to be, I kept dwelling. That dwelling led to dissatisfaction and to arguments with my husband.
The Peace of the Sacrament
Third, the minute I went back to church, the Spirit returned. Actually, it wasn’t going to church that was the miracle, it was taking the sacrament. I remember walking into the building and not wanting to be near my husband (I was mad at him) and not wanting to be there at all. But I went in anyway, and as soon as I took the bread, this peace washed over me like a cool shower on a hot day.
The water made the peace deeper, and by the time the sacrament ordinance was over, I no longer wanted to divorce my husband and run away from home. I felt peace. And I knew that I needed to be at church every week. The Relief Society lesson fed my soul in a way that home church hadn’t. Probably because it was focused on me and probably because the Lord used that time to send me some much-needed personal revelation.
No Longer Inactive
I don’t regret the time we spent helping my son. But now I know that I need to supplement my home church with actual church. I need the fellowship of the Saints and the peace that comes with not being in charge for once. And I need to teach my son the joy of service that only comes in groups of people. Even though he still will dread crowds, church is an important part of life.
The sacrament specifically has changed my soul. I went to church weighed down and depressed, yet by the end of the ordinance, I felt a renewed hope and energy and desire to keep trying. That is the beauty of gathering with the other members of the Church on Sunday — you can encourage each other. This world is so full of stuff that simply makes you busy. What we really need is more time to recharge our souls.
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. Having completed training to be an RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) for ABA therapy she is beginning to understand her son. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism, Abby wants you to know that the challenges can be overcome, and there are blessings in autism. You or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.