When I was a kid starting school in the late 60’s, the go-to teaching material for reading was a series of booklets titled, “Fun with Dick and Jane.”
They were each, to my recollection, just a few pages long with a couple of sentences per page. There were these very interesting characters (note my sarcastic tone): Dick, Jane, Sally, a cat called Puff, and a great dog named Spot.
The sentence structure was pretty simplistic: “See Dick run. See Dick and Jane run. See Dick and Jane run fast!”
In spite of the fascinating content (or maybe because of it), I was not a good reader. It seemed that every other kid in the class could “see Dick and Jane run” much faster than I could. I was the slow reader.
I could fake it through 1st grade and then came Mrs. Gunther’s 2nd grade class…
No more faking, it wasn’t going to fly.
I was the kid in the slow reading group. I couldn’t sight read because I was still trying to put the sounds of letters together. I was the guy who still needed to read with my finger below each word to help sound it out.
I can only remember a few mental pictures from my early years in school and sitting in the “slow” group; Mrs. Gunther ridiculing my reading is one that stands out.
Needless to say, I felt horrible. I felt stupid and dumb and wanted to quit.
Instead of being motivated to work harder, I was moved to passivity. I developed an aversion to reading and took on the label of being a slow reader and a poor learner.
Unbeknownst to me, my reading ability or lack of ability began to shape my identity. I found myself avoiding books in general and dreading being called on to read out loud. I read only when I had to and as a result didn’t read much for fun until well into my adult years.
Today, I no longer see myself as a slow reader and a poor learner; though I still do not read as fast a many others, but the negative stigma of these labels no longer defines me. I do not see myself as stupid, dumb or slow as I did in Mrs. Guther’s class.
The change of perception hasn’t come simply by growing older and wiser. Unfortunately, I think all too often many of us carry childhood misperceptions well into adulthood. The change evolved as I began to understand and believe in how God viewed me.
Today I see myself as one of his highly favored sons who just happened to learn to read a little later than the other kids. My identity is not determined by what I do or don’t do, by who I am friends with or not friends with, or how much I earn or don’t earn.
My identity has been decided by God and I’ve chosen to believe him.
This past weekend Bill Rieser spoke at the Men’s ADVANCE meeting about a person’s identity being found in Christ. It was a moving talk relatable to all. He made a statement which his been true for me, “The greatest battle a man faces is the battle for his identity.”
The battle rages on from generation to generation, but it does not have to rage on in you and me.
If you are a Christian, you are his Highly Favored Child. Not because of what you do, but because of what he has done. Live in light of it. Lean into it. Let him determine your identity rather than the Mrs. Gunthers of the world.