Liturgical worship and ADD

When I was in my 50’s, it was suggested that I be tested for ADHD. My diagnosis with the inattentive, non-hyperactive type of attention deficit disorder did not take my older kids by surprise; they told me that they could have spared me the money and the ordeal of undergoing four hours of rigorous testing and screening. (“Seriously, Mama? You really didn’t know you have ADD? Everyone else knows.”)

The diagnosis, and the reading and research that I did as a result, was one of those wonderful AHA experiences: I wasn’t stupid, after all! I wasn’t being purposefully careless, or willfully disobedient, or “just lazy”, or trying to drive people crazy! And wasn’t crazy either!

The psychologist who tested me told my husband something along the lines of, “You have no idea how much effort it takes for your wife to do the things that you think should come easily.” He actually said that I tried so hard to do well on the tests that it was “painful to watch”.

For about a year, I was on wonderful ADD meds. I actually felt smart! I was waaaaaay less distracted. Reading, which I’d always enjoyed, became ridiculously easy, and I could even remember most of what I read. I could think in a linear fashion. Conversations were so much easier to follow. I didn’t get lost watching movies with multiple characters and complex plots. I could teach karate without misspeaking, without my words becoming a weird jumble. (No more did my students stare at me in bewilderment after I said, “Put your feet out over your knees” only to have me ask them, “What did I just say?”) I managed to organize the chaos and disorder of our upstairs room without dissolving into tears of frustration. It was amazing!!!

But…

The medication that worked best for me was expensive. In order to keep costs down, I supplemented the wonder med with a cheaper med, but the monthly medical bills, paid out-of-pocket, still mounted up. And, in order to be able to sleep at night, I had to make sure that the meds wore off in the evening, which meant that I appeared my same old self to my husband. I suspect he had hoped that the meds would turn me into a different person, someone who was actually efficient and productive. The psychologist had warned us not to expect a dramatic transformation: meds wouldn’t make me “normal”, but would make it easier for me to learn how to do things that were too difficult before. Life would no longer require such exhausting effort on my part. (One of the most amazing things is that I finally figured out how to cook and clean up the kitchen…sort of…at the same time, instead of cooking and leaving a disaster area behind.) Since my husband wasn’t inside my brain, he wasn’t impressed with my enthusiastic claims of, “But I feel so smart now!!” and “Everything isn’t so hard any more!”  The wonder drug may have been wonderful to me but, from his perspective, the cost-benefit ratio was disppointing.

As if that wasn’t discouraging enough, my already high heart rate started getting scary high, and it seemed that I had no choice but to go off my beloved ADD meds. I felt almost like Charlie in Flowers for Algernon. Once again, I was the dreamy, disorganized, forgetful, clueless space cadet who bumbled her way through life. Once again, I found the most ordinary of tasks to be dauntingly exhausting. (But I can still wash dishes and wipe a counter even while cooking food on the stove — without disaster or calamity. Though my husband might disagree, since he was actually paying for the expensive meds and doctor visits, I think that alone makes all the money well spent!)

I grew up in church, with my father as a pastor. When I was a kid, it was our family tradition to have a really nice Sunday dinner after church, during which we inevitably discussed my father’s sermon. The two of us kids would sometimes be quizzed to see if we had really been paying attention. My older brother had the amazing ability to be able to listen to one thing, even if he was reading another thing at the same time, and he could remember the Scripture references, the three main points, and the illustrations. Despite desperate attempts to pay attention, I was lucky if I could remember even an illustration. (So I started cheating: after the service, I’d sneak a look at the outline in my father’s sermon notebook, and manage to quickly memorize at least a point or two.)

My mind still wanders during sermons, and it takes a great deal of effort to rein in my errant thoughts. To add to my difficulty, far too many churches these days are so obnoxiously visually distracting to me — I end up thinking about wires and amps and keyboards and drum sets and movie theaters and weird lighting and bare walls and ugly architecture and why people hate pews so much that they replace them with chairs, etc. If you’ve been in the typical modern evangelical church, you probably get the picture. Then I leave and wonder what if anything can be done with someone like me. Church services are so hard.

At least that’s how it used to be.

Once again, the Historic Church holds the answer for me. For centuries her liturgy has been so conducive to worship that it seems almost custom designed for people with ADD. In my Anglican church, my entire being is involved — spirit, mind, body, and all five senses. I smell the incense. I kneel, I stand, I bow, I cross myself. I feel the prayer-book and the hymnal in my hands. I sing. I read. I pray out loud. I move forward for the Eucharist. I taste. I am fully engaged, rather than a passive observer. It matters that I am there, taking part with my brothers and sisters alongside me, and with the global church throughout history.

There are no long, drawn out sermons with humorous anecdotes, lengthy illustrations, Power Point presentations, and clever alliterations to distract me. The homilies are relatively brief, Scripture-based, devoid of fluff and filler, and well worth my attention. But even if my mind does wander, what I see — the altar, the crucifix, the icons — draws my mind to my Savior and to the wonderful mysteries of the faith, rather than to mundane thoughts. My soul is fed by beauty in an environment designed for worship rather than vexed by ugly, distracting things scattered across what looks like a concert stage. Everything I do and see and smell and taste has profound meaning and brings me back into acknowledging the very Presence of God.

When we gather on Sundays, everything works to point me — even the most easily distractible me — to Him. Isn’t that the very purpose of the Church?

Divisive “discerners”

I used to be one.

But I repented. It finally dawned on me that God had never appointed me to be a member of the doctrine police.

Just this morning I ran across a comment I posted on some blog two years ago. I’ve forgotten the particular blog or the discussion, but I’d saved my comment. Here it is, with slight edits:

In what has come to be called Jesus’ high priestly prayer, offered in the hours leading up to His crucifixion, He prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

We cannot claim to love Jesus Christ if we do not share His heart for unity. Are we truly one with others in the Body of Christ or do we cause the world to sneer at our disunity, disagreements, bickering, and sniping at one another?

God forgive me for the times I have been divisive under the guise of “discernment”!

But, wait — doesn’t God require us to disassociate from brethren who teach what I am convinced are wrong things?

“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Notice what’s missing on the list: teaching or believing theological error or false doctrine.

“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:9-11)

We are also to avoid those who stir up division with controversies and quarreling over the Word of God, especially the law — because it is warped and sinful to do such a thing! Again, may God forgive me for the times when I was guilty of such terrible behavior, and so far from the mind of Christ that I actually thought I was protecting His Body, rather than attacking it.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)

Lest you think this applies only to local churches, please be aware that Christ has one Body — one Bride — and not multiple ones.

Although I disagree with a number of things I read on blogs or hear in sermons, it is not for me to judge the salvation of the authors and thus I cannot say, “I have no need of them.” Instead, I must honor them as Christ would have me do — even in the face of disagreements that are probably irreconcilable this side of Heaven.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)