Live Like a Yellow Rose

I’m Emma, I’m 23 years old and I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome when I was a preschooler. A lot of people wish that they could have got a diagnosis that early, but for me, it was a huge shame factor. I never felt like I fitted into any of the stereotypes of what an “Aspie” is, but then again, I never felt like I fitted into the “normal” category either. I was just a lost soul, never really fitting in anywhere. I felt so alone, so isolated. I’m an extremely people-orientated person… people are my life. To have a label that says I can’t form proper relationships with others was absolutely crushing for me. I thought, there was no way anyone would accept me if they knew who I really was.

The Encourager

The idea that people with Autism can’t maintain proper friendships, that they can’t have a normal life, learn normal life skills or have a job or travel, that they can’t have empathy or ever see things from another person’s perspective, is an absolute myth and I stand here as proof of that fact. I am extremely empathetic and feel others’ emotions and pain deeply. I am also very extroverted. I currently co-lead a community house, which means I live in an intentional community with others – eating meals together and doing life together. I work for a mission organisation called Steiger. We host backpackers from all around the world, run events, and bring people together in community. Last year I fundraised enough money, so I was able to travel to the other side of the world, to Europe, on my own. I have formed many deep and beautiful friendships who encourage and celebrate my quirks, and empower me to be who I am.

Autism may mean that we may have limitations that make some things harder for us than others. But so do people with chronic illnesses, mental illnesses, or any other limitations people might have. When I support my close friends through these things they have, I don’t see them any less – in fact, understanding helps me to love them even more, in the best way possible.

So why do I think that when people find out about me having Aspergers that they would love me any less? We all have things that limit us but that’s why we’re all in this together.

In Christ I can find my identity in Him. My identity doesn’t come from labels, it comes from Him. Living in community and growing in my relationship with God has helped me realise that I don’t have to hold so much shame for being different. God has made me who I am for a reason, and He doesn’t make mistakes.

Emma in a yellow floral dress, holding a yellow rose and standing in front of a row of yellow rose bushes

I love Elevate because it reminds me that we’re all in this together. We all have things that limit us but we don’t have to let those limitations hold us back. In 2013 I served as part of the Kitchen team at Elevate National Camp, in 2015 I went as a buddy, and I have also been a cabin leader.

Just like roses don’t cover up their thorns in order to show their beauty, we don’t have to have shame about our limitations.

I know I’ve spent far too long trying to hide my thorns from the world. But the thing is, autism isn’t just the thorns, it’s the whole rose. There is beauty and there is hard stuff- just like anything. There is beauty in letting the world see who you are- all the thorns, all the beauty… Being open, vulnerable and free. Making mistakes, but supporting each other together.

I shout out to all my tribe who empower me to be my crazy self, who support me in my stuff, and allow me to support you in yours – you guys are the rarest kind of jewels. Or should I say, roses.

Just like roses don’t cover up their thorns in order to show their beauty, we don’t have to have shame about our limitations.


By Emma Cox

[Originally published in The Encourager June 2020, issue #167]

Reposted in conjunction with Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2024

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