A Square Peg in a God Shaped Hole

Shining sun in a wooden heart frame

The sharp words that flew from my lips struck their mark with deadly accuracy. My young son looked up at me, tortured eyes looking much older than his tender years. We were working through yet another language arts program and it was not sticking any more than the myriad of others we had tried.

At 12, he exhibited all of the signs of being mildly dyslexic. We had gone through our local school district for testing four years prior. They subjected him to a variety of tests, observed him, and told me he was ‘fine’. A kid who, at 8 years old, could not spell the word ‘by’ after a week of study was fine? Harumph.

I politely thanked the experts and continued my own research. I figured that if it looked, walked, and quacked like a duck it likely was. So I spent the next four years trying every curriculum marketed to dyslexics that I could get my hands on. We hammered phonics, basic grammar, spelling, and reading. This was war, by golly, and I was determined to win.

My son, usually so sunny and eager to please, put his head down on his desk. I felt a pang of regret at my sharp tone. His voice was muffled behind his folded arms, but his words were as clear as if he’d shouted them.

“I wish I was dead.”

Have you ever had one of those moments when the world seems to literally stop spinning? Time has no relevance, and thought processes suddenly possess a clarity they had lacked only moments before. In that one horrifying blip when his words pierced my heart, I knew it was time to concede and raise the white flag.

Regardless, full surrender took some time. I felt adrift and confused. I didn’t know what angle to take concerning his education. I took him to an independent tester who confirmed what I already knew. My son has a language based learning disability. He processes the written word differently than most and will likely struggle with this to some degree his whole life. However, this tester did some extra analysis and found that his logic and strategic abilities were in the ‘very superior’ range.

I felt the Lord was showing me something very important that I had somehow lost sight of. The Creator of the universe had not made a mistake when He crafted this son of mine. He had fashioned this boy with many gifts. My son, who displayed empathy at a far younger age than the experts say is possible, who was born with an innate sense of God’s loving presence, who is skilled with people and video games; this young man was made precisely the way my Lord was pleased to make him.

All my years of striving were, in reality, counterproductive. My research, the endless parade of curriculum, the testing, were not wrong in and of themselves. After all, it is our responsibility to be the best advocate for our children that we can be. However, I could see that I had been trusting in these things. I had been counting on these things to somehow fix my boy.

Lord, help me.

There was nothing to fix but my skewed perception of what intelligence is. It was my fragmented view of what normal looks like that needed changing. But more importantly, it was where I placed my trust that needed a complete overhaul.

I asked God for wisdom, and against my screaming instincts, I stopped trying to force the ‘required’ learning. I stopped focusing on my son’s areas of weakness and began searching for strengths that I could nurture. We have since discovered talents in theater, dance, chess, and more. As I’ve watched him grow from defeated little boy to confident young man, I see the foolishness of my thinking.

No more trying to cram a square peg into a round hole. Such a misguided attempt to make it fit does nothing more than disfigure the square peg. I’d rather take my ‘square peg’ and help guide him into being the best him he can be.

According to the world’s standards my son has a defect; perhaps a bit of faulty wiring in the brain or a genetic abnormality. But I trust that the Master Creator made my son exactly the way it pleased Him most. He made my son different, not defective. When I do trust this truth, I see my son shine. I see the wonder of this beautifully made young man. On the days where trust is nowhere to be found and anxiety rules the day? Well, those days bring a lot of unnecessary grief to both of us.

So when I see my son’s abysmal spelling in a text message, I will choose to pray blessing on the inventor of spell check. When state testing time rolls around and I’m tempted to worry, I will remember that God’s purpose and plan for my boy will not be thwarted. When others tell me what my son needs to succeed I must trust what I know to be true.

My God’s got this.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

I’m sharing this post over at #TheLoft.  This week’s topic is Trust.  Check out some fabulous bloggers there, or join in and link up a post of your own!

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21 thoughts on “A Square Peg in a God Shaped Hole

  1. It has been awhile since I have told her this…….but YOU ARE SO INCREDIBLY TALENTED WITH WORDS! I just KNOW you will be a famous conference speaker someday!!! Will you get me a front row seat to your first gig? I’ll be the “amen” section. 😁

    Date: Thu, 18 Sep 2014 03:06:50 +0000
    To: lorilerwill@msn.com

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  2. Rebeca, welcome to The Loft. I am so glad you joined us. This post is amazing. It is a huge reminder that our God doesn’t create all of us the same. He does give us different strengths and weaknesses. My mother always used to say, ‘that’s why God made vanilla and chocolate…not everyone is the same.’ We must look at people with our hearts, and see in them what God sees. I don’t always do a good job of that, but I’m seeking to do better with the help of the Holy Spirit. Thanks for the reminder.

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    • Thank you, Leah, for reading and for your encouraging words. I seem to need this reminder often myself. I just thank our Lord that he doesn’t give up on the thick-headed! Slowly I am learning to put on my God-colored glasses before I begin my day–it makes all the difference in the world. Grace and peace to you!

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  3. Makes you wonder if there are any truly round holes that people fit in, or if we’ve all just ‘disfigured square pegs.’ So much nicer to picture an endless variety of shapes, created by God and each one fearfully and wonderfully made. My friend with an autistic daughter would ‘AMEN’ this post. And I will join Lori when you begin your whirl of public speaking!

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      • Thank you! I love how you put it, “Love the child I have, not the child that I WISH I had.” I wouldn’t trade my son for any fantasy of perfection! As a homeschooler, I have felt an enormous amount of pressure to produce above average results. It is prideful and foolish thinking that clouds my vision. My focus is often in need of a reset. I learn, and re-learn this particular lesson multiple times every school year! 🙂

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    • Well then, if such a thing happens (perhaps when pigs begin flying), I will be delighted to meet you in person. 🙂 Until then, I shall continue to enjoy your words and your gracious encouragement from afar. And I agree with you that it is much nicer to think of the endless creativity with which our Lord has made us. Infinite variety–what a beautiful thing! Blessings to you, Anita.

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  4. Reblogged this on Exploring America with Kids and commented:
    Another well written post! We all have our strengths and weaknesses, it is sad that so so many children nowadays are labeled because they learn differently or struggle in some areas. My daughter also has a very difficult time with spelling. She is now 11 and still makes the same errors over and over. I am fortunate she goes to a small Montessori school where learning is looked at differently than in the public school system. They look at the whole person! I also say thank you to spell check!

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    • Thanks for the reblog, and the comment. You are very fortunate to have a Montessori school available. It’s too bad the mainstream system doesn’t take note–we could be leading an education revolution in this country! It only makes sense to look at the whole child rather than ramming unique beings through a cookie cutter system. I feel blessed to have the option to homeschool. Grace and peace to you, Carol!

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  5. Rebeca! Thank you for this post. As a homeschool mom, I have been struggling with teaching reading to one of my children. You helped me to kind of step back and look at the big picture. I thank you for reminding me to look at his strengths (for he also has many of those), because right now we are every-day-trying-to-get-this-reading thing down, and yes, there has been some special testing with no specific conclusions and……again, what a great perspective you just provided to me. So glad to meet you via The Loft.

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    • I’m glad to meet you too, Karen! It’s so hard to go against what ‘the experts’ tell you. If there is any one thing I would change, it’s trying to force reading instruction on my two oldest. They weren’t ready and it was miserable for all of us. (Some would say it possibly contributed to their learning difficulties/disabilities today…I don’t know)

      In my fantasy land of going back and doing it differently, I would have done this: I’d have simply chosen some fun books, snuggled up together, and enjoyed the magic of story together. I wonder if they would be better readers today if I had done that.

      I am currently learning about the concept of multiple intelligences and it is very eye-opening. You might try In Their Own Way, by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. I have found some very practical information there.

      Good luck to you, Karen. Here’s to new cyber friends and fellow travelers in the homeschool trenches, yes? 🙂

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  6. Jeff and I have been discussing a very similar issue during walks. I have been so broken about my critical nature, this week in particular. My tendency to let my kids know fairly quickly when I am vexed (Proverbs 12:16), being nit-picky over their every mistake (particularly with home schooling.) My “whisper instead of yelling” technique and sighs may fool others, but they don’t fool the Lord. There is a heart issue when I get upset with my kids for making mistakes or not meeting my expectations.

    This summer, I helped a friend’s children with math from time to time. And there were a few times that one of the kids was really not listening to my instruction, working too quickly and carelessly. Over and over. And I was able to be so long-suffering with him! I kept gently instructing him to go back, do it again, slooowwwer, until he got it. True, it was very time-consuming, and if he had corrected himself immediately, he wouldn’t have had to do the same problems over and again. But he was never discouraged, eyes never welled-up with tears. He thanked me for my help when I was done. Thanked me for making him do math!

    Remembering those lessons, I told Jeff yesterday, “That would have never happened with one of our kids. I would have sharply corrected from the get-go. They wouldn’t have kept making the same mistake over and over, but they would have had their feelings hurt.”

    When the going gets tough, I get results. Nip it in the bud. Move on. But I’m not being kind, gentle, patient and long-suffering or really ANY OF THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT with my own children. PROBLEM!!! I was realizing that somewhere along the line of mothering, my mentality has shifted from when they were little: When an issue arose– “Here, let me help you.” — to now — “What? I’ve shown you how to do this FIVE TIMES! Pay attention! I have things to do!” Like they are out to get me and make me sit and do math all day. It’s so stupid, but really that’s how I act sometimes. And I hate it. I do not want my kids to remember a critical, harsh mom. I want to be the mom who wants to help. Every time. Never frustrated. Never irritated. Always responding correctly. I want to actually be changed, not just act changed for a while and then revert back. So clearly, I need to stop trying to BE a gentle, kind mom, and repent and ask the Lord to MAKE ME a gentle, kind mom.

    That’s what I’ve been praying about this week. For help from the Spirit. So that when problems come up, I can still overflow with love and gentle care for my children. You should know that YOUR talk at the mom’s tea is what started all of this, so thanks for that!!! 🙂 A summer of prayer, lots of talks with the kids led to a complete overhaul of how we “do” school (and we are having such success with the new flow of our days!!!), and now I am being confronted with my heart issues. Honestly, I’m exhausted. I didn’t have a time-stopping moment where I just realized what I was doing. This has been so gradual, one issue at a time, over the course of a year. I feel deflated but also thankful for the Lord’s faithfulness to help. If we keep asking and seeking and knocking, He helps. Every time.

    So, so sorry for the LONG comment! This post really hit home.

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    • Sarah, thank you for sharing your struggles. It’s good to know we’re not alone. My journey from being a reactionary, critical nutcase to (mostly) patient, gracious mommy-teacher has been long. I still struggle often with my impatient nature. I suppose I always will, but it simply serves to remind me that I cannot do this under my own power.

      I lived for a long time with regrets about my sharpness and impatience, especially with my oldest child. Then she shared with me that watching me grow as a Christian and as a human has inspired her more than if I’d been the perfect mother. Humbling, to say the least!

      NO ONE gets is all right. But when we honestly get before the Lover of our Souls and ask Him to mold us, I believe He honors that desire for change. It doesn’t happen all at once for some of us, but it does happen over time. As we grow and change with our kids, it isn’t until the journey is finished sometimes that we can say, “Thank you, Lord, for using even my failings.”

      I will pray for increased energy for you. Dealing with heart change can be exhausting indeed. Just remember that there is NO condemnation in Christ. That inner critic that tells you how badly you’ve fouled up, and that insists that change will never happen…well, that is NOT the voice of our Lord. Show your inner critic the door whenever she shows up, and remember that you are a beloved daughter of the Most High. He knew, before He ever graced you with your children, the mistakes you would make, and He gave them to you anyway. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?

      Keep running the race, sister. You’re doing great, and whenever you need to hear someone tell you so, let me know. You can always find me here, or you can friend me on FB. I know how hard it can be and am always happy to cheer someone else on!

      Grace and peace to you today, Sarah. Thanks again for sharing! 🙂

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  7. Thank you, Rebeca, for your transparency. I found myself tearing up as I felt your frustration, sense of failure, and then relief. Your experience provides a review-lesson I need to hear frequently: Stop striving and keep trusting! Your son will undoubtedly remember how is mother gave up striving for trusting–a lesson he’ll lovingly remember his entire life. God bless you, Rebeca!

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    • This is definitely a lesson I have to review frequently. Just when I think I’ve got this trust thing down, I find that old worry creeping in. But the Lord makes it easier by being ever faithful. Both of my kids with learning issues love Jesus, others, and are doing just fine in the areas that really matter. Thank you, Nancy, for your encouraging words! Blessings– 🙂

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