Strong Enough to Dream

By: Dr. Tracy Bailey

I can remember the first time I held him in my arms, so tiny and pink, head covered with shiny black curls. He was our firstborn, the fulfillment of so many of our dreams. When I looked into his eyes all I could see were possibilities, each one of them shored up by our love. What would he aspire to accomplish? President of the United States? A doctor? A lawyer? Astronaut?  

He was born to an educator and a writer, two people who had pushed themselves beyond boundaries. Driven. Ambitions. Dreamers. I left my teaching job to spend the majority of my time investing in his potential, reading to him, creating a stable, nurturing home environment where he could flourish. As he matured, though, we noticed that his personality contradicted ours in many ways. He was more nuanced, more laid back, more mild mannered. What we wanted for him, all we had dreamed, seemed to be of no consequence. We wondered if the capacity to be passionately engaged was something innate or something taught. We wondered where we had gone wrong.

The calls came from the school regularly. “He is talking when he’s supposed to be paying attention.” “He isn’t turning in any of his assignments.” “He seems to be drifting off, staring out the window when he should be doing his work.” Our child? Our beautiful firstborn child for whom we’d dreamed extraordinary, outsized things?

The test scores said one thing – 99th percentile, gifted. The classroom performance said something else. We were puzzled, but knew he needed to be challenged. We spoke to the school officials and had him placed in a class for gifted students. The teacher called one day to inform me that our son was not gifted, that we had been mistaken, that he lacked the drive, and ambition of the other kids. She told him that he didn’t belong. 

 Today, I look into his eyes and see a young man outgrowing himself, coming into his own. At school he has just completed his eighth year of trying to figure out how to keep everything in order, of some teachers shaking their heads at his lack of academic success. We’ve tried to help without trying to help too much. We’ve tried not to allow our frustrations to damage our relationship with him. We’ve gone out of our way to expose him to as many opportunities as possible because we still dream for him, pray for him, but not in the same way we did when he was an infant. It’s his path to walk, but we’ve also fully embraced the urgency of his situation and all that is at stake.

But in the process we’ve also found that though writing papers and taking tests may not ignite his passion, so many other things do. He loves to read books, play the drums, participate in sports, write songs and perform them. He’s finding success in those areas and his confidence is growing.

The other day he was headed out the door to his latest track meet, his gym bag flung across his boney shoulders. He stopped for a moment, turned his almost six-foot frame toward me, smiled slightly. “I’m going to make it into the 2020 Olympics. Wait and see.”

Those few surprising words came like confirmation from heaven. He’s going to be alright. He’s getting strong enough now to dream, to understand that power already working in him. He is learning how to tap into the potential we tried to nurture all his life. Just as my husband and I invested in our firstborn, God has given us His very best. His son. And He still dreams for us. God knows the plans he has for us, giving us a future and a hope. As we mature and grow in our Christian walk, each of us must leverage our strengths, understand our worth, and be willing to take a giant leap of faith. Dream.  

For more on how God sees things differently than man, read 1 Samuel 16:7