Today is Fat Tuesday. or otherwise known as Mardi Gras. It is a celebration that Christians honor in preparation for the upcoming Ash Wednesday and Lenten season until Easter. It is one of the few holidays where excess is not only encouraged, but celebrated because Lent comes the very next day, depleting the excess almost immediately.
So now that I have discovered my autistic identity— I am trying to look back at celebrations to see if I can see my autistic traits in hopes it will shine some light on autistic processing. Mardi Gras was not a focus in my house until I was an adult. I would hear references to pancakes sometimes but since I preferred waffles, I never thought it was worth my time. Also, the bead throwing had different meaning for me (Disneyland handed out beads and my friends made stars by twisting them around) so we never really noticed the celebrations. As I got older-it was tiring to think of Fat Tuesday and I only enjoyed it because I could eat whatever I want for one day. I am kinda glad of this because I think the encouragement to intake in excess would have fueled my worrisome autistic nature and meltdowns would have appeared more because of the immediate change the next day. Speaking of which, let’s talk more about Ash Wednesday and Lent.
Now, typically at Lent, one is asked to sacrifice or give up something they desire or that blocks their path towards God/Christ. For an autistic person, they may already have their routine and path which could involve already sacrificing something so this makes a lenten practice hard. A common alternative is to do a service project, but consider many autistics struggle with social situations (i.e. I have a major trigger with nursing homes), so this may be a road block too. Finally, enforcing a routine about giving up a food or factoring in a new practice could trigger executive functioning issues attached to it (trying to remember to do devotionals, get upset when you miss said devotional and then shut down/give ip because you “failed” Lent. Yep. Thats what I have felt like.)
I don’t think that the 40 days Jesus went to the desert was meant to break himself down. It was to prepare for his coming death and resurrection. So for an autistic person–preparation may look different than the neurotypical Christian.
As an autistic– there needs to be a lot of inclusive and acceptance. I think doing sensory immersion events with ashes/oils during this time is a great way to include autistic people in Lenten worship. Another alternative is providing quiet sanctuaries or prayer rooms so that an autistic person can experience worship or devotional in the best sensory way possible. In regards to sacrificing– I know just acknowledging a change in one’s environment may be enough. For example, for me, I have difficulty with transitions. So maybe my sacrifice looks like spending a Friday night indulging in self-stimming activities so that Saturday, I can doing multiple things in a row or letting someone else control my schedule. It is sacrifice of my desire to refuse the change.
So hopefully this gives a little perspective into the world of an autistic person and a more open eye to what a “sacrificing for Lent” looks like 😀