Not long ago I picked up a much-anticipated and highly acclaimed book. I had waited long on the library hold list to get a copy. With the kids finally all tucked in bed, I climbed into my own bed to get comfy for a night of reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I hate to admit it, but I promptly fell asleep 10 pages in.
I don’t believe sleep overcame me because of the long day I’d had. I reread those ten pages, time passed, and I read them again.
I thought, “It must get better,” so I trudged along.
I had slogged to the halfway point of the book when it came due at the library. Honesty, I wasn’t disappointed! As I slid the book into the library dropbox, I wasn’t sure that I’d go to the trouble to check it out again.
When I think about walking alongside my elementary school student as he struggles in school and faces delays in reading and writing, spelling and attention, there is a striking resemblance to my relationship with A Gentleman in Moscow. What was highly anticipated with the promise of ease and joy is instead a slog. The work my son is doing to gain ground sometimes feels like we are going backward or, at least, has the feel of rereading the same pages a hundred times.
He gets angry, I get angry, and we’re both just a little bit sad. The small signs of progress don’t feel like enough. And sometimes, if I’m honest, I want to give up. What I wouldn’t give for it to be easy for him… for him not to struggle, for his peers not to notice his delay, and for the two of us not to have to work so very hard.
Not long after dropping that book off at the library, I ran into a friend at church. We chatted, and since my friend and I are in a book group together, I mentioned my disappointment with A Gentleman in Moscow.
She couldn’t believe I hadn’t finished the book! She was confident that finishing would be worth it. So, with a bit of skepticism, but the encouragement of this wise friend, I got back on the library hold list and finally picked back up where I’d left off.
And Oh. My. Goodness. What glory!!
I couldn’t get enough. I was devouring the story. All that work that Amor Towels had put into building the scene, the characters, and the story - the very things that were tedious to read at the time - paid off as the characters I now knew so well felt like dear friends. Their journeys felt like mine. And their freedom was mine too. A book that I’d given up on now stands as one of my favorites.
And the work with my son… it’s still work. But, there is hope. What I didn’t have eyes for before, I do now, the eyes to see that hard does not equal bad.
I am coming to trust that the tedious struggle we face together is building a beautiful work in both of us. I have the vision now to look toward a future for him when all of the story that God has written for him, including the hard, is written beautifully into the man he is to become.
And I believe we will both look back and say that we wouldn’t change a thing.
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