My Name is Shannon, but I Want to Tell You About Christian


Shannon Dingle tells a story about Christian and she expresses her gratitude for a church that accepts families with hard questions and ongoing disabilities.

Christian was seven years old, had autism, and was diagnosed in the fall of 2012 with an aggressive brain tumor. On April 16, 2013, God brought Christian’s earthly life to an end.

I miss him.

While I have comfort in knowing that Christian’s bodily function is no longer being choked by his tumor and he is no longer limited by an inability to communicate in a typical way or by any of those other things about autism that made him a visitor and stranger in this world, I loved him and, selfishly, I miss him.

Christian was so much more than his diagnoses. Christian exuded joy. He loved music, and he shared gifts of authenticity and love and laughter and lack of pretense and so much more. He was as whole and complete and beautiful as I am, and now by God’s glory he is more whole and complete and beautiful than any of us. 

How I long for the day when I will worship with Christian before the King!

You see, I love Christian and my other friends with and without disabilities who I've met through my church’s inclusive ministry because I, too, am a visitor here. I may not have autism or a brain tumor, but I am handicapped daily by my sin. As God calls me not to conform to this world, He sets me apart as a stranger and sojourner in this land. Since my husband and I began leading our church’s inclusive special needs ministry, our youngest daughter Zoe joined our family via special needs adoption from Taiwan due to cerebral palsy; then our son Robbie was diagnosed with epilepsy; and now we’re in the process of adopting again.

I love being a part of a church that welcomes Christians and Shannons and Zoes and Robbies and Philips and all the hard questions our lives pose, especially in the face of trite or cliché theology. I cherish the church that includes all its parts, as laid out in 1 Corinthians 12, and allows, in the words of John 9:3, the works of God to be displayed in disability. I am thankful for the community God has created in my midst, a community that – along with me – loves God and misses Christian.





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