An autistic person’s guide to the fruit of the Spirit
Part 2: Joy
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11
One thing that has to be made clear about the fruit of the Spirit is that that the qualities it promotes, the qualities that grow in us as we live by the Spirit, are qualities found in the Godhead. Because it is the Father’s joy, Jesus’ joy, the Holy Spirit’s joy it is not ours unless God gives it. It is not ours to create, it is the Joy of God given freely to us.
There is nothing wrong with joyfulness from other sources because our joyful God is in favour of joy. The Bible says that wine makes glad the heart of man. If alcohol helps you to be joyful then, by all means, take some. My experience is that alcohol enhances whatever mood I’m in, so I have learnt not to drink when I’m feeling low or have had a recent meltdown.
I am talking about joy and having meltdowns in one blog. Meltdowns not as being very angry and losing your temper, but meltdowns in a way particular to autistic people when due to overstimulation the brain cannot take any more in. This leads to fatigue, as does the constant trying to be someone you are not in order to fit in with society. Constant eye contact is one of those things which can be really tiring in autistic people. But deep joy is not found in the pursuit of happiness, we do not need the constant noise and bombardment of the world to be joyful. happiness and joyfulness are not the same thing. The joyfulness that is a fruit of the Spirit comes from a relationship, the deep intimate relationship with God.
The Godhead, the Trinity is an intimate relationship. God wants us to be joyful in relationships, both with him and with each other. Take sex as an example: The Bible shows that God is in favour of sex, sex is God’s idea. As far as procreation is concerned sex is very inefficient, you need to have a lot of sex to make a child. OK just once, but nor every time. We learn intimacy with each other by having sex. God puts a lot of conditions around sex because he wants us to have the best from a relationship. We learn intimacy and in that intimacy we find joy. That sex help books have titles like The Joy of Sex is because of the joy that can be found in such an intimate self-giving act.
Sex is not the only place where joy can be found. Anything that is self-giving can bring the warmth of joy. Bringing up children is one, grandparenting is another. Team sports are another, there is a bond of empathy between the players that the spectator can empathise with and the spectators can draw it off each other. It is no wonder that competitors and spectators will hug each other after a win. That’s joy.
As for being autistic joy can be found. Meltdown or shutdown is not the normal state for an autistic people if taken away from the stimulus that causes these (Schoolrooms, open-plan offices, places with fluorescent lighting are among these) are able to thrive. Crowds are bad places for autistic people who often work well in small groups.
But the joy that is a fruit of the Spirit is primarily from being in relationship with God, the source of joy.