Learning Disorders and other thankful things

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By Janel Breitenstein

They found out as soon as he hit kindergarten. I remember watching furtively at his pediatrician’s appointment as the doctor asked him to draw an X and an O on the crackling tissue paper—and my five-year-old couldn’t do it. I felt embarrassed, inadequate. It would be only weeks until we obtained the diagnosis that would spiral us into a new reality: significant ADHD, and later, concurrent dysgraphia (highly affecting his ability to write and spell). We were headed to Africa in three months. To say I was “overwhelmed” just didn’t quite cut it.

But encountering my son’s learning disorders also propels me into a new understanding of the profound tenacity of God’s love. His disorders are one of the specific reasons we’ve decided to homeschool him—but that also ratchets this game to a whole new level. Thanks to a lot of hours up to my frontal lobe in books, podcasts, articles, prayer, and real conversation, this is what I understood: My son’s disorders are not only part of his story God is writing: They are part of mine. And I have come to cherish the fierce, perpetual advocacy God also has for me—this love that will not let me go; that creates beautiful things where before I saw (or foresaw) ashes. His love is simply…relentless for me. (And my son.)

You see, I see a disorder as on a spectrum of our imperfections–weaknesses we all have, with labels or not, some perpetually and with biological contributors. Some of mine surpass those imposed by a disorder. We’ve all got junk. All of us find ourselves in dire need of grace; in need of rest for our weary souls.

As this song intones, those “ocean depths”—though they may not be the currents I’d have designed for myself—channel my life in a richness and fullness I couldn’t even conceive on my own. Only God could design and sculpt deep gratitude for His choice of these disorders for us. (My son wrote recently in his speech on “The Treasures of ADHD”: I am glad for the way I am. I am still amazed by the way God made me.)

Perhaps because of this journey, it has percolated into my soul that His love and intimate, intricate concern for us is simply inextricable—to the point of Him giving up Himself. Or as Paul puts it, If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

This week, may You sense His profound, inexorable love.

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