Let's just say that School and I had a Love, hate, despise relationship. Except for Jr. High (6th-8th grade), I loved every aspect of school except for the academics. Academics were not easy for me. From my earliest memories of school, my diction and speech were problematic. Starting in Kindergarten, I was in Speech therapy for hours each week. It was not the normal childhood lisp; rather it was tied to a deeper learning disability where and my mind worked faster than I could communicate, often leading me to have jumbled words and sentences.
This speech impediment was also tied to a deeper processing disability. In other words, there was a disconnect between the way I received information and the way I would disseminate that information. Along with processing issues, a myriad of other complications meant that I always struggled with school.
Interestingly, I could never be branded with the label stupid or slow since I always seemed to be able to come up with the right answers, even though it might have taken me a lot longer to express them.
This drove my teachers nuts, for while they could always see my potential, my learning disabilities were often mistaken for sloppiness or laziness. That is not to say that I was not lazy as a youth, I could find great excuses not to do my homework, as any youth can do. However, when someone would try to cut me a break, I would refuse. I always figured that the only way to learn was to try it until you mastered it, this is why I loved math and science so much.
There were times when a path was laid out in front of me that would have made my life easier. In Junior High, I could have joined the remedial track, but I refused. My concern, along with the teasing that would accompany this, was the fact that I knew I would be bored out of my mind, since most of school already bored me.
I know this choice came to frustrate my counselor who was determined to make me a top-grade student. Nevertheless, as I told her, and other educators along the way, I could care less about the grade and more about what I actually learned. Having a learning disability opened up a whole world that normal thinkers don’t even knows about. I quickly found out that the quickest way for me to learn and retain information was often to go in a different direction than from point A to point B. I like to call it scattered thinking,
My teachers did not like this, but I came to find that I would pick up a whole lot of other things along the way. Moreover, I learned a lot about people and our interaction. Unfortunately, at times, I would often find a tangent of more interest and pursue it, frustrating my teachers to no end. Actually, I blame this learning on my Montessori preschool, but that is another story.
When I graduated from High School, all I knew was that my life was going to be different. Though I did not have a clear image of what I was going to do, I knew that God was showing me direction, which I followed. Knowing that I was never going to be the Top of the class, gave me freedom to explore, and thankfully, that exploration led me to the class that opened my eyes to the call God had been waiting for me. Like a Rosetta Stone, the acceptance of my call brought my excitement and education to a new level and helped me to find that special professor that would work with me to formally work through my disabilities to understand them as a gift from God.
As much as I struggled in School, that struggle brought me to a place where I have achieved almost everything that I have always desired. Interestingly, as I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday, I have also found myself in a place where I am happier than I have ever been, at least in recent memory. Nevertheless, all of this stems from the fact that I do not let my limitations define me, not do I let them get in the way of becoming who God is calling me to be.
I will be honest; every day is hard, each letter, worship prep, everything I write is incredibly difficult and time consuming, but when I finish I can smile and know I have done it for God. What is important is to recognize that there is still so much more to learn about ourselves and about God and the greatest glory in life is to never stop growing and learning.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen