God calls us to do great works for Him. Then He gives us what we need to accomplish what He wants us to do. In my case, God gave me a software application and a gift of the spirit. Each is needed to accomplish the work He wants me to do. Together, the app and the gift allow God to work through me for the joy and encouragement of others.
As a child in school in the 1950s, I had a learning disability which went undiagnosed. Back then, teachers and parents didn’t know about dyslexia, which affects a student’s ability to process words. Schools didn’t provide support or management for the disability. My teacher held me back in the third grade because I could not spell or read as well as the other students. I felt ashamed, as if I was stupid – too stupid to learn. Teachers, those highly educated people whom children feared and respected back then, deemed me to be less motivated, less capable, and less worthy. I accepted their assessment and suffered low self-esteem.
As a machinist in the Navy and later as a railroad Carman (repairing freight cars), I gained respect from my fellow workers and bosses because of my mechanical aptitude and leadership abilities. I was offered a promotion to become a supervisor in my department, a job which would require me to write reports. Did I dare take the promotion? I could articulate my thoughts quite well; I just couldn’t spell the words. In situations outside of work when I had to write something, my wife helped me with spelling. As a supervisor at work, I would have no one to help me. Because I had a growing family to support, I took the promotion anyway.
The dictionary became my close ally. Writing reports while using a dictionary to find how to spell words takes time. If I knew the first letter or two in a word, I could scan the right dictionary page to find what I needed. There were some words for which I had no clue how to start, but I thought up substitute words to work in their place. I became so good at finding words and at covering up my dyslexia that I was promoted once again. People with disabilities depend on other skills, like a blind individual who develops keen hearing. With my dyslexia I learned to memorize the spelling of words. When I retired in 2004, I declared no more writing for me. I had dodged the bullet and no one had discovered my struggles with spelling.
Our Heavenly Father had a different idea for my retirement. I knew sharing one-on-one or in small groups is a way to share my faith, but I also knew the written word is a better way to convey a story and a message to a larger audience. God had enabled computer specialists to develop a wonderful software application – spell-check. Truly a godsend, spell-check opened up a whole new world for me. It’s as if the Lord said, “I will give you the gift to write for me and about me.” I asked, “Lord, what will I write?” Then I understood He would give me the words.
In retirement I have been published twice. (Thank you, Spirit Fire Review.) The priest at my church has asked me to write weekly in the parish bulletin. With God’s help, I write the Sunday Reflection to encourage and uplift my brothers and sisters.
A curious thing happened to me on my faith journey. When I first became a Catholic Christian, I asked God for a gift of the spirit. I asked Him for wisdom. In the years since, I believed He granted my request. I have a new perspective now. He didn’t give me wisdom. Wisdom is part of aging gracefully (and with grace) and grows as we travel with our Lord. No, the gift God gave me is dyslexia. That’s right. My disability is the gift God gave to me. My struggle with dyslexia built my empathy for others who struggle. My shame and embarrassment taught me humility. Dyslexia gave me the experience I needed to write from the heart, the place where God puts the words He wants me to use.
© Don Lane
Don Lane, who grew up in Michigan and retired from a railroad career with Southern Pacific and Union Pacific, lives with his wife and their dog in Beaverton, Oregon. Don writes spiritual, spirit-filled messages to provide hope, encouragement and inspiration to family, friends and others.