I have been cursing myself for the last ten minutes. Actually, I’ve been cursing myself for the last 35 years.
It all started in kindergarten. The student that answered the phonics question correctly first was rewarded with a piece of candy. I wanted to be the one lucky student, the smart one, the chosen one, the one who got to suck long and hard on a piece of candy during recess. Sticking out a green, blue or purple tongue was the ultimate symbol of five-year-old society.
I still remember clearly the day my hand finally shot up as quickly as I willed it to. I remember staring at the little card the teacher was holding up for eternity. I could taste the sugary sweetness of victory. I blurted out the answer—or at least what I hoped was the answer.
You see, the letters on paper and their sounds just made no sense to me. Alas, that day was no different. I was destined to be a non-reader for my kindergarten year. Today teachers would call me a “pre-reader.”
But no matter what I was labeled by teachers, I knew what I really was and that day it became clearly etched in my mind. A failure.
First grade started. Reading was easier but writing was still a challenge. It was around Christmastime when the teacher put a word on the board: Northpole. The student who could make the most words out of that word would win. Sweet retribution.
She called us to the front of the room one by one where we were to read our words outloud and spell them for the class. It was down to me and one other student.
Again, the sweet taste of victory was within reach. With cotton in my mouth and sweat on my palms I began reading. And spelling.
As she issued her stern verdict of my performance, heat crept up my neck and tears stung my eyes. I finally made the endless three-step journey back to my seat where I could safely slump in my chair until the wave of shame and humiliation passed.
I’m proud to say I moved out of the bluebird group. It took me until third grade but I finally got to be a member of the gold readers.
But then in fourth grade, students became grouped by reading and math skills. I was doomed from day one. A mathematical genius I was not. I found a coping mechanism. I embraced words and shunned all things numeric.
This morning I temporarily forgot I was no counting whiz. I forgot that all sentences containing numbers must be read and proofed a jillion times in my world.
And, I had this momentary feeling of freedom, pride and joy as I hit the “place order” button on my computer. I was taking care of a third of my list at once.
Only after I got the email confirming my order did I realize that delivery “in time for Christmas” would be too late. My calendar said my Christmas would happen the week before the numeric Christmas happened.
I felt like I was in first grade again, or maybe fifth.
I thanked God for grace, hoped for a small Christmas miracle and said a little prayer, sighing my worries of Christmas failure out to Jesus. I wondered if Mary felt the sting of Christmas failure when she wrapped her baby in rags and placed the Son of God in a dirty feeding trough.
I remembered that it is in weakness He is made strong and I acknowledged my own weak state and invited His great strength. I thanked Jesus for enduring a stinky stable, a hard life of manual labor and a ministry that ended in death—that we might have life.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given...“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ... For when I am weak, then I am strong.
John 1:14a & 16; 2 Corinthians 12:9a & 10b