Jesus, Me, and ASD: An Exploration of Identity

“Hi, my name is Rachael.”

This is how many of my conversations begin. It seems a strange way to start a conversation to me because Rachael is just my name. It’s a name given to me before I was even…me. It doesn’t tell you anything about who I am or my identity. So, who am I? Well…that is a complicated question.

There are many pieces to who I am. I’m Level 1 on the autism spectrum (formally known as Asperger’s). I’m a mom, wife, daughter, animal and Sci-Fi lover, geek, omnivert, and creative. I could go on for pages trying to list all of the labels and titles that are a part of who and what I am.

Most people can spend a lifetime getting to know someone and still not understand all of who they are; just ask any married couple. Our identity is a colorful puzzle added to over time and forged by nature and nurture. This, combined with the choices we make, creates an entirely unique individual.

There has never been anyone just like you ever. However, scripture says that above all else, who we are should be found in Christ. Our identity should be primarily formed by who we are as sons and daughters of God.

I’m reminded of the TV show “The Mandalorian” and of the struggles the main character Mando had with identity in the show’s second season.

When he was a young man, he took a sacred vow that he would not show his face to another person ever again. To betray the vow would be to betray who he was! Death was more preferable to him over breaking his vow.

His primary identity was found in his culture and the values it taught. In season two (SPOILER ALERT) without him realizing it, his identity began to change. The vow he had taken was no longer the primary factor. Being Grogu’s (aka Baby Yoda) protector had taken its place. Because of the love Mando had developed for Grogu, he now saw him as his son, and everything else becomes secondary. So, when life presented him with a choice – to keep his vow and wear his helmet or to save Grogu – he chose to save his son. He chose his identity as protector and was changed forever by love.

Identity struggles are not limited to fiction. I’ve recently fought my own battles. My whole life I knew I was different than most of the people around me. It made my childhood very difficult and created a lot of pain throughout my life. Then, last year it was suggested to me that I may be autistic. I was so overwhelmed by my emotions as I considered it. Everything I learned as I researched about ASD Level 1 indicated I was indeed autistic. Suddenly, huge parts of my life made so much more sense. I felt like part of my identity was always missing, but now it fell into place.

When it came time for me to be evaluated, to have an official diagnosis with a doctor, I was terrified. I was afraid of how the answer, either way, would change who I am and how I see myself. That morning as I prayed for peace, I felt God speak to me in His oh so gentle way.

“You are and always will be above all else my daughter, a child of the Most High King!”

At that moment, I was reminded that all the other pieces of who and what I am couldn’t change my worth, because I seek to find my primary identity in Christ. All the other labels and parts have to fit within it.

Maybe you are like me and have had a new piece of your identity dropped on you. Or perhaps you are like the Mandalorian and you have been given a choice between who you have always been and finding a new identity in Christ. Are you struggling to let go? To surrender who you are and become who you were meant to be? It can be the most difficult thing, and yet, it’s so simple. Scripture says, “if anyone be in Christ, he is a new creature, the old has passed away and all things become new” (2 Cor. 5 :17).

Our culture says your identity is yours alone. We are told everyone and everything should bend to who, what, and how we identify ourselves. That we should create the puzzle of our identity and choose what pieces we think fit. However, Christ says to come to him and be transformed. The only way true freedom can be found is when we conform to the image of Christ. We need to allow God to dictate our puzzle, eliminating the pieces that do not fit with what scripture says we should be. When we allow the word of God to shape our identity, all of our answers can be found in him.

I have enthusiastically embraced that I am autistic, but when the doctor says, “you will never be able to do ‘this’ because of ASD,” I reject that because God says, “my grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:19). When society says, “it’s who you are, you can’t change it,” Christ says, “you can ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2). When my mind says, “I am worthless,” God says, “for God so loved me that he gave his only son to die for me” (John 3:16).

We can, like Mando, choose to change who we are out of love for our Savior. We can choose to open our hearts to be molded by His word and power. There are not many things in the universe that can truly change a heart, but God’s love can.

My prayer is Jesus will transform and conform me, helping me as I strive to find my identity in him. So when people see who I am, they don’t see a mismatched puzzle of my own creation and ability, but a unique work of art that shines forth Jesus and his love. As Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

 I hope this is your prayer too, because, over two thousand years ago, Jesus said it first: This is the way.

Rachael DeLaria

3 Comments

  1. Rachael on June 25, 2021 at 7:01 pm

    Lol thanks

  2. Celeste G. on June 25, 2021 at 6:48 pm

    Stop being so good at your job, Rachel.

    • Emily Morales on June 25, 2021 at 8:21 pm

      Very encouraging and insightful.

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