Life Challenges

By:  Staci Stallings

As you know, my son is dyslexic.  His reading is improving rapidly now that we know; however, he’s still behind.  He’s now reliably reading on an advanced-kindergarten to early-first grade level.  The problem is he’s in second grade.  Some of his classmates are on chapter books, and he feels less than because he’s still reading kindergarten books.

Now his mother (that’s me!) is thrilled beyond comprehension because I see how far he’s come.  He only sees how far he has to go.

Moreover, he doesn’t yet understand the unique set of skills and understanding that this particular life challenge will present to him.   All he sees is the downside.

Isn’t that just like most of us?

Don’t we all have unique life challenges?

I know I do.  For me, mine was being horrible at sports when it seemed everyone around me excelled at that.  My “accomplishments” in this area paled so radically to the other kids in my class as to brand me forever as the last or second to last picked.  I was as likely to get hit in the head as to catch whatever ball was thrown my way.  I couldn’t run.  I certainly couldn’t run and catch.  I could shoot a basketball–as long as there were not nine other people on the court with me.

I clearly remember kindergarten year.  We did a program for all of the parents.  In the program we were supposed to do gymnastics.  I was the child that did ONE somersault, and the crowd clapped like crazy because I had done one.

In track I was last.  In baseball, I got one bat–and struck out.  In fact, one of the oldest stories about me happened when I was about four or five.  For the first time… maybe forever… I caught a ball someone threw to me.  I was so excited, I said, “I captured it!”  (Of course, that was my strong-suit, my vocabulary, meeting my life’s challenge and taking them both down… I was teased about that forever afterward.)

It wasn’t until I was in my late-twenties that I began to see how this life challenge had affected me.  I held back.  I didn’t want to play.  I didn’t want to mess it up for everyone else. I internalized my life challenge, and it became my excuse for not trying.

In thinking about this with my characters, I can so see the pattern.  They have an innate weakness, something happens, or they are otherwise convinced that they have a certain life challenge, and that life challenge, they come to believe, is written in stone.  They then make that weakness the cornerstone for their approach to life.  They deny it, work around it, push it down, pray it goes away, pray no one finds out, use it to determine their own self-worth.

Just like I did.

What I see now with my son is how this life challenge for me gave me so many positive attributes.  I became compassionate for others who struggled because I had struggled.  I became encouraging to young children just learning and do not push them to do things they are not capable of doing.  I do not belittle people because I know what that’s like.

What can my son learn?  That everyone’s different and some are good at some things, like he’s good at math and electricity, and others are good at other things.  I hope he will learn to cheer others on instead of tearing them down because now he knows how that feels.   I hope he will learn that, yes, this is a challenge, but it shouldn’t take him out of the game of trying and learning.

The truth is, now, I’m not two-left-footed.  I’m really quite coordinated with things I enjoy–like dancing and playing on the Wii.  It’s just I have to stop using my life challenge as an excuse to take me out and keep me on the sidelines, and start using it as a way to understand all of life (myself included) better.

So what is your life challenge?  What circumstance or thing in your life are you using or have you used to hold you back, to keep you sidelined, to keep you from playing the game?

I’m convinced Satan tries to use these things to do just that.

Are you going to let him?

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