Have you ever dozed off in church?
Thomas falls asleep in church every Sunday. Every Sunday. Not nodding off for a few seconds. Deep solid slow-wave restorative restful sleep.
Every Single Sunday.
Honestly, I’m jealous. As a woman of a certain age, sleep does not come easily or deeply. I’m envious of his state of complete peace. Where is that peace when I’m awake at 3:00 a.m. trying hard to keep the 847 thoughts swirling around the corners of my mind from getting a foothold and pushing my sleep pattern further into chaos?
But I also used to be embarrassed when he fell asleep.
I’d love to tell you it was because I thought it showed disrespect to the pastor who had prepared the sermon.
I’d love to tell you it was because I thought it showed disrespect to God because church on Sunday is about worship and learning about the character of God.
I’d love to, but that would be a lie.
I was embarrassed because I thought other people would judge Thomas.
No…still not 100% correct.
I was embarrassed because I thought others would judge my parenting skills as poor.
Some people probably do.
In the past, I have woken him up with a nudge of the elbow or a flick of my finger on his leg. He’d come back to consciousness for a bit then slide right back into deep solid slow-wave restorative restful sleep.
So like a good parent does, I gave up.
Like a good parent does I contemplated why he did it. Why did he fall asleep during church? Like many people on the Autism Spectrum (or women of a certain age) sleep can be elusive and erratic for him. But there are lots of places he does not fall asleep. The church building is filled with the sights, sounds, smells, and pressing touches of people that typically will send Thomas into one of his stimming behaviors. Coughing is one of Thomas’s triggers. Have you ever counted the number of times someone coughs during a service? Of course not, because you’re listening intently but if you did, it would be in the double digits. Even with his noise-canceling headphones, he can hear a cough from 10 feet away and respond with a stomp of his size 13 foot. It is not a restful situation for him or anyone sitting nearby.
So why does he fall asleep in church?
I’d like to postulate a theory. Church is Thomas’s safe place.
Church the people, not church the building.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
I believe Thomas feels the soul-rest of that verse in a physical way. I am not on the autism spectrum…well…not diagnosed anyway. We all have special needs. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others, right? But I’ve been Thomas’s mom for a long time. I’ve watched him process all the world’s stimulation and sensory input. It’s exhausting to watch. I can’t image how it feels to actually be the one doing it.
Thomas comes to this building we call the church that is filled with people who are the Church. Thomas feels safe surrounded by these people who are the Church. The people who have the light of Jesus inside and shine that light into the space around them. He recognizes that light because it matches the light that is in him as well. Thomas can let down his sensory guard and lean into the rest that comes from really giving his burdens to Jesus. Thomas doesn’t make it complicated. Thomas doesn’t worry that Jesus doesn’t mean what he says in Matthew. Jesus says he is gentle and humble in heart. Check. Walk next to me, says Jesus, and I’ll give you rest. Check-ity check. And Thomas slides into deep solid slow-wave restorative restful sleep.
I’m back to being jealous again.
I want that level of trust and belief.
I need that level of trust and belief.
How about you?
Shine Bright 💡