In grade school, I had to go to the bathroom a lot.
No, I didn’t drink multiple cartons of milk at lunch or have some weird disease. But I was in pain.
The pain? My anticipation of being called on to read aloud in class.
I’d managed to go most of my elementary career without reading in front of the class. It wasn’t that I didn’t like reading; I was a voracious reader, poring over every book I could get my hands on (even the ones I wasn’t supposed to get my hands on). And I didn’t have a fear of speaking in public. Most of my trouble came from speaking too much. I could be guaranteed to get this feedback on every report card: Kathi is a delight to have in class. However, she tends to share with her neighbor too much.
I wasn’t afraid of reading or speaking. What terrified me was the combination of those two activities.
You see, I’m dyslexic. While I love to read, I take longer than many of my friends. And I love to speak, but only extemporaneously or from some really big bullet points.
Having to show the world (or worse, a classroom of fourth graders) what a slow reader I am felt like all my nightmares coming true at the same time.
It was easier to fake stomach cramps and run to the bathroom.
One of those torturous afternoon reading sessions, a room mom heard me struggling. When we went to the library afterward, she took me aside and confessed she always had trouble reading in front of people too. She encouraged me to read the chapter the night before class, so if there were words that were going to trip me up, I could “figure it out” in the privacy of my bedroom, not in front of twenty-nine other students.
I use this strategy even now. The day before any situation where I will be reading aloud, I take a handful of multi-colored highlighters and mark up the pages so I know when I need to slow down and pay special attention.
I needed this kind room mom’s help to get through school and have a career I love, but sometimes I forget my fourth-grade lesson and try to do too many things on my own — like refusing to listen to my more mechanically-inclined husband when I’m building Swedish furniture because I want to be able to say I didn’t need any help.
Or the times I’ve refused to listen to older, wiser mentors because I wanted to blaze my own trail. But you know what’s awesome about taking the well-worn path? You get time to enjoy the journey, and you don’t have to spend so much time fighting the thorny underbrush.
I’m like my daughter when she was a toddler. She would insist on “I do it myself!” even if it meant she spilled ninety percent of her Cheerios on the way to the kitchen table. On those occasions, I may feel independent, but I look rather ridiculous.
Can we just admit right now that having to do it all, manage it all, and handle it all is exhausting?
One of the best things I’ve done in my business is to admit weak areas and surround myself with those who are stronger. I’m not a skilled designer, but my friend Angela is. She takes my ideas and makes them way more beautiful than I ever could have. I benefit from her talent, and she uses the gifts God has endowed her. A total win-win.
Plus, I get to have an amazing friend like Angela in my life.
When I admit my weakness, it becomes a pathway to connect with others.
Because weak doesn’t mean “unimportant” or “unnecessary.” It means some of us require more help or protection in certain areas.
Sometimes the most important parts of our body are also the weakest. I think about our brains, our hearts, our lungs, or our kidneys. I would much rather have an injury to my leg than to my kidney.
The Apostle Paul talked about the importance of each body part in 1 Corinthians 12:18-22a (NIV):
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
Sometimes, I am the strong part, but more and more I realize I am the weaker part and need help. As the body of Christ, we were designed to collaborate and assist each other, rather than do it all on our own. The ability to ask questions, receive opinions, and seek help is one of the traits that will get us farther than always trying to figure it out by ourselves.
While most of the country celebrates our independence, I would love for us to take a moment to celebrate our dependence. Dependence on our community of believers makes us better, kinder, and more like Christ.