If you’re skip reading this and multitasking dozens of things at once, you might just have ADHD.
When I was a child, there was always something different about me. I had trouble in classes and was generally looked at by teachers as that kid who doesn’t apply herself.
I had a long history of failing to reach my potential and self-sabotage was my default setting. Before long I was diagnosed with ADHD-PI (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: predominantly inattentive).
When I became a Christian, all the rejection I’d faced from my youth made sense. I had been rejected by the world because I had been chosen by God. I accepted the gift offered by Jesus immediately when I understood the gospel as I realised that I had been made faults and all by God and He had known it all along.
It’s taken me years to notice how my ADD diagnosis has affected my spiritual walk.
Here are some particular challenges that ADD/ADHD people face in their faith:
I skim everything I read and my intake is generally (generously) about 60%. When studying I have to reread notes about five times to comprehend what I’m reading.
I tend to cheat my way through my daily Bible reading and scripture memorization is near impossible. The best I’ve been able to do is remembering the basics of the verse and being able to do a search for where the verse is located.
Generally, my devotional time is like opening a fortune cookie. I flip to a place in the Bible and expect to find some snippet of relevance in there before boredom strikes again.
The problem with prayer is that it’s a relationship and ADHD relationships are prone to falling apart.
Part of that is failing to remember dates (my husband used to have to continuously remind me of our anniversary) or to do things.
In regular relationships things work by the non-ADHD partner continually nagging the ADHD partner. When it comes to God, there isn’t much nagging on His end. However, the Holy Spirit does prompt me to retain a relationship, but not as often as I would like.
Often the excitement or dopamine addiction that ADHD people have turns them to cheating. There are many ways that you can ‘cheat’ on your relationship with God. Anything that constitutes idolatry is usually referred to in the Scripture as having another love.
The striving for instant gratification often means putting relationships last, and acting thoughtlessly with our partners. Open communication is hard but essential and we’re fortunate that God is so forgiving with us.
Sometimes I sit attentively. Sometimes (read: usually) my mind wanders. Sometimes I just want the sermon to get to the point already.
I’m not organised enough to run kids church by myself. I forget to bring the essentials; a Bible, money for the offering… and sometimes my clothes end up back to front or inside out when I arrive in the morning.
I love meeting new people and talking about God but my mind is everywhere at once and by the time I’ve thought of that funny, relevant story the conversation has moved on.
But church is fun for me if the expectations are low. I’ll never be one of those classy well-put-together women who can do it all. But church is supposed to accept the non-perfect people and support them to grow into who God wants them to be. Which is why church has usually been where I feel most at home.
Knowing what I struggle with has enhanced my spiritual life. It’s not making excuses for poor behaviour but acknowledging that my struggles are not the same as those for the next person.
For anyone else struggling with ADHD and Christianity, I would advise them not to be too hard on themselves. If we can focus on Jesus, we can become the best version of ourselves, and it’s all the more grace if we can’t.
Bridget Brenton is involved in Aboriginal and Islander based ministries, and enjoys tech stuff like making websites and making games in her spare time.
Bridget Brenton’s previous articles may be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bridget-brenton.html
Bridget Brenton from Brisbane has been for many years a young writer then an Over 31 writer and now a Panellist marking for the annual awards.