“I am recommending your son for an SST.” The teacher neared the end of the conference with these words. Even though I knew it was coming, the words caused my heart to twist in my chest. A Student Study Team is the first step in a long process of assessments, evaluations, accommodations, and meetings. The recommendation means that our little one is a “struggling reader.”
This baffles us a bit. He is so intelligent, so quick-witted. His sense of humor and timing with one-liners is far beyond his seven years. He loves stories and wants to be a part of every conversation, whether he should be or not. His first-grade teacher said he had “all of the tools for reading” but still, at bedtime, he would read “lal” instead of “all” or “that” instead of “what.” Why couldn’t he put the pieces together?
Over the past two years, we investigated our son’s vision. We visited an optometrist twice. Each time, we were told he has “20/30 vision” but giving him lenses didn’t seem to help. Our boy continued to complain that words are blurry and that “letters move on the page.” With the recommendation of his current teacher, after hearing those words that we knew would send us down a new path, we investigated something we had never heard of before: vision therapy.
After three hours of assessments, some with the vision therapist and some with the new optometrist, we learned so much more about what vision really is – and about what our sweet son’s eyes are doing. You see, his eyes are great! He is not nearsighted or farsighted. In fact, his sight is 20/25 in both eyes. And his brain can decode words and process them just fine, too! The challenge, however, comes with the middle layer of vision: Jace’s eyes aren’t focusing and tracking like they should. Both eyes should work together, aiming at the same focal point and moving back and forth in tandem as we read.
His don’t. Our precious boy works so hard but his eyes don’t communicate well with each other or with his brain. When he reads a line of text, each eye darts away in different directions. His focus is four inches in front of the point he is trying to see. This causes letters to appear to move and sends the wrong information to his brain. Thankfully, with a bit of help and support, the optometrist believes this is a temporary problem.
As we sat in the waiting room, my son told me how excited he was to get glasses. He wants to see clearly so much! And I began to think about how seeing isn’t just about what is in front of us – it is about focus, communication, and tracking.
It is the same with our walk through this life as Christians. As the optometrist explained, there are three layers to how we perceive: the eyes themselves (muscles, shape, etc.), the way the eyes work together and communicate to the brain, and the way the brain interprets the image.
Just so with how we view our circumstances. Our relationship with Christ is our spiritual eye muscle. When we step into a relationship with Him, we gain the ability to see everything through His lens. Then, we add our connection with the Holy Spirit, who helps communicate what our new-found vision allows us to perceive. It sends those thoughts and images to our mind and heart. Now, if we are trying to work independently of the Spirit – if we are seeking our will above God’s or allowing the world’s view to pull our Spiritual eye off track, then the information sent to our mind and heart is garbled. Just like Jace seeing “all” as “lal” and “what” as “that,” we miss God’s cues for direction and purpose.
As I struggle through writing my first novel and study the art of developing a narrative that communicates God’s truths, I see so many shoulds in front of me: You should read great authors. You should attend conferences. You should network. You should find an agent. You should just sit down and write. I lose track of my purpose and calling with all the places my spirit darts. But there is only one should that matters. I should put it all down, open the Book written by the Eternal Author and learn from the Master. His words will be the prism my spiritual eyes need to focus clearly on what is ahead of me. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:6 “To focus our minds on the human nature leads to death, but to focus our minds on the Spirit leads to life and peace.”
Is God focusing you in one direction while your worldly view pulls you another? Are you tracking with God or darting from place to place? Maybe it is time to pick up the Word and use it to train our Spiritual eyes to focus and see clearly the way He has called us.