Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Blessings and curses


I am neurodiverse. I am diagnosed dyslexic, dyscalculic, and dyspraxic—this last meaning that I often am unable to locate information. You might be familiar with walking into a room and having to look around for where you put down your keys. I have this experience within my brain, misplacing names, for example, or the connection between a face and a name. I am also almost certainly, though without formal diagnosis, autistic.

Neurodiverse people sometimes describe their condition as a superpower. I think I understand why, the need to reframe a story of lack, but, at least in my experience, it isn't a superpower at all. I am not a superhuman, I am a (super) human (as are you). For me, my neurodiversities are both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing is the gift of God’s goodness. Blessings are the overflow of that goodness, a gift that keeps on being given, and is never retracted. Blessing is the invitation to live a particular life, that no other lifeform can live in your place. Blessings give permission, delegate authority, and say, “Go, take your place in the miracle of life.”

A curse is a limitation placed upon us, for our own good and for the good of others. Curses are always themselves limited in scope and duration, and always overcome by repentance, that is, a change of mind. Curses are the negative expression of blessing, the page to the ink. They save us from ourselves, from the misdirected desire to be independent of others, while at the same time keeping others dependent on us—from any messiah complex. They push us, willingly or unwillingly, towards interdependence—which we embrace through that repentance, or change of mind.

My neurodiversities are a blessing, to me and for others. I am super creative. I am capable of super focus—note why some people speak of super-powers—while also super-easily derailed. I see things from a different perspective, a perspective that other people value because it shines light on their neurotypical blind spots. (Though mine is not the only or only right perspective, something that immature neurodiverse people often fail to recognise.)

My neurodiversities are also a curse, to me and for others. There are ways in which I will never be independent, or dependable. To an extent there are skills I can learn and tools I should employ to manage this; but skills and tools can also be fashioned into a persona, a false projection of who I want you to see (and, often, who you want to see in me) masking those parts of me that I do not want to be seen, because I am too easily ashamed of them. That persona isn’t bad in itself, but it is false. The particular curses of my neurodiversities—the ways in which I routinely misunderstand others and am in turn misunderstood; the wifi signal inside my mind dropping out at the most unwanted moments; a host of others—the things I have so often tried to hide—are the very limits that should cause me to seek others whose blessings compliment my curses, just as my blessings compliment their curses. At 50, the persona of competence is simply too cracked to hold or hold on to.

The curse is a gift, as much as the blessing: the blessing sending me out from God further and further into the world, the curse calling me back deeper and deeper into God; my true self being found held in this creative tension.

One of the things I do is keep an eye on clergy posts being advertised. Not that I am looking for a new job, or change of role, but because I take an interest in clergy wellbeing. One of the things I notice is how many contexts are seeking, or offering opportunity for, ‘an exceptional priest.’ As a direction of travel, this causes me concern. It is, perhaps, a sometimes-necessary place to begin, but—ironically—has its own in-built limits. Being exceptional turns out to be curse, as much as blessing. If we recognise this, all well and good; there will be pain, but it will be creative, cooperative. If we fail to do so, there will be a lot of destructive pain along the way.


Wednesday, October 18, 2023



This afternoon I have spent two hours with Y4 (children aged 8/9), one hour each back-to-back with two classes, helping them to learn about the Trinity, the Christian belief in One God who exists eternally as three persons. This is part of their wide-ranging RE curriculum. The classes were made up of pupils from a wide range of ir/religious families. I was bombarded by questions—I’ve never seen so many hands raised so quickly and persistently—and the quality of their questions and their own observations was of an exceptionally high standard, ranging over many related issues and exploring similarities/differences between Christianity and Islam with sensitivity and respect. I was seriously impressed by them, really enjoyed their welcome, engagement and company, and look forward to visiting them again in future. Right now, I am exhausted. Apparently some adults spend the whole day, every school day, with these furious balls of energy!?

We explored the Trinity: God, King of the Universe and Father of all; Jesus, the Word of God through whom all things were created, speaking itself into creation as a human, to be with us; and the Holy Spirit, the life-giving, life-sustaining power of God in the world.

I had woven a friendship bracelet of three differently coloured threads as a visual representation; we talked about what colours we might choose to represent Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the children chose to work on their own friendship bracelets as they continue to explore this theme.

We recalled Jesus’ baptism—of which they had leant previously—and I brought the silver bowl and mother-of-pearl seashell I use to baptise people “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” pouring water on their heads in three actions. We discussed what Christians do and don’t mean by the terms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (e.g. Christians don’t believe that God was married to Mary, or is Jesus’ father in a biological sense; and while we believe that Jesus is the second person of the trinity from eternity, ‘Son’ of God was also a term used for the Davidic kings in Jerusalem; we talked about other names for God in the Bible—and Koran—and various ways of describing the Holy Spirit, such as breath, wind, flame, dove).

Thinking about how the Trinity is important to Christian practice, I explained that whenever we gather together for worship, I make the sign of the cross and say “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” and that as we depart, I make the sign of the cross and say “the blessing of almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always. Amen.”

And I showed them how Christians can make the sign of the cross, by pressing our thumb, index finger and middle finger together—representing the Trinity—and resting our ring finger and little finger on our palm—reminding us that Jesus is fully-God and fully-human—and then moving our hand from our forehead to our heart (sternum) to our left shoulder to our right shoulder (and then back to the middle of our chest) when we gather or receive Communion or depart with God’s blessing or when we pray.

But their questions! So many! And so deep! About God, yes, and especially about Jesus. Also, about life and death, and life beyond death, and angels, and the devil, and (non-human) animals, and inter-faith marriage and children, and friendship, and betrayal, and doing wrong because you are frightened of other people, and how all shall be well.