Reclaiming My Brain: I am Not Stupid


Helen Burns -Reclaiming My Brain3

I can still hear her scolding reprimand. I was in Grade 10 and my teacher had yelled at me in front of the entire class, telling me that I should probably just quit taking her Math class because I was going to fail it anyway. She went on to say that because I was interested in boys, not math, I was doomed to be, “stupid for life.” Those words lodged deeper into my heart and mind than I could have ever known. Yes, I failed her class and I allowed the failure to frame how I saw myself for far too long as I struggled to believe that I was academically competent at all.

I married my high school sweetheart who is a genius in all things math and science. He never once mentioned that I was weak in that arena, but I constantly compared myself to anyone who excelled in it. I was insecure and resentful, trying to compensate in other ways for what I felt that I lacked. I became uncomfortable around people with academic accolades or degrees. It created such inside turmoil for me during the four years we spent as a family living on the university campus as my husband studied to become a dentist.

Thankfully, I have grown a lot in the past few decades as I have discovered who I truly am and who I am called to be. I recently watched the outstanding movie Hidden Figures about three women who were known for their genius as human computers. Because of their exceptional ability in mathematics, they helped facilitate the magnificent launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit and also his safe return. As I watched this movie, I no longer felt the sting of ‘stupid’ or comparison because many years earlier I came to the realization that I had genius of my own. I didn’t have to compare myself to any other person on earth.

My husband John has often said, “What you see with your eyes closed is far more important than what you see with your eyes wide open.” I know this to be so true. It is the vision in your heart that will guide you into your future. Though my math teacher spoke those words into my heart and gave me a failing grade, it was actually my choice to allow them to grow into a deep hurt and resentment. I gave them permission to shape an entire area of my life.

The early years of marriage and motherhood were a hard and often lonely season in my life. While John was busy pursuing his degree and working hard to pay the rent and keep food on our table, I was struggling, afraid to ask for help or guidance. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was failing in any way. During this time, I had allowed a great distance to grow in my relationship with God. I hadn’t opened my Bible for several years, I no longer attended Church and I rarely prayed anymore. I remember feeling like I was the greatest failure in the universe… failing as a wife, failing as a mother and ultimately failing as a Christian.

It was in this desperate place that I had a personal encounter with God that forever changed the direction of my life. I remember reaching for my Bible, which I had hidden from view in my home for four years and discovering the wonder that it held for the vision of my future. As I studied it, I felt like blinders fell off my eyes and I began to see the Truth revealed to my heart in a fresh and redemptive way. Every day I would tuck my three daughters into bed for their afternoon nap and I would meet with God at my kitchen table. I opened my Bible and saw what I somehow hadn’t seen before—words of hope, words of truth, words that ignited faith in my heart to believe what God said about me.

I began to believe that I was capable and empowered, that I was wise, filled with knowledge and understanding. Eventually God’s truth overcame the lies, fears and insecurities that had ensnared my hurting heart. It was like a miracle was taking place, but it didn’t happen overnight—it happened as I began to daily pursue the heart of God with my own eyes and heart wide open to His glorious power and strength.

God of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, Father of Glory: I call out to you on behalf of your people. Give them minds ready to receive wisdom and revelation so they will truly know you.  Open the eyes of their hearts, and let the light of your truth flood in. Shine your light on the hope you are calling them to embrace. Reveal to them the glorious riches you are preparing as their inheritance.  Let them see the full extent of your power that is at work in those of us who believe, and may it be done according to Your might and power. (Ephesians 1:17-19)

As I ponder what it means to be open there are many beautiful thoughts and images that captivate me. Thoughts of:

  • Unlocking a padlock that has long kept doors of opportunity shut
  • Allowing the sun to shine into a room where the shades have kept you in the dark
  • Opening your heart to a new relationship after your heart has been assaulted
  • Welcoming new words, like seeds permeate the soil of your heart or mind.
  • Clearing a space that has been cluttered with debris, sweeping it clean and starting fresh
  • Turning the electric switch from ‘off’ to ‘on’ allowing a current of life and energy to flow

Are there places in your life that you have allowed to be closed and shut down? Are there places in your heart where you used to have big dreams or a vision that you decided to let go of because it just got too hard to hold on to? I wonder if God is inviting you to fling open those places or perhaps simply just unlock the door and allow it to sit slightly ajar with the possibility of the nudge of the Spirit of God to begin again?

God is always inviting us to more. God wants us to live with our hearts wide open to hold all that God has for us. God is asking us to see things not just with our human eyes focused on this earthly realm or journey, but to see things from God’s perspective and dare to adventure into places and experiences that we could never imagine without God leading us onward.


Helen Burns

Helen Burns

Helen Burns and her husband, John, speak around the world on the topic of relationships. They host the popular TV show “Relate with John and Helen.”
Helen Burns
Helen Burns

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  1. Math is not my strong point either! I’m sorry your teacher spoke those words to you- but I’m so glad for what Christ, our Teacher has done since then. Thank you for the encouraging words!

  2. I had a couple formative experiences like that – French still makes me nervous (even after living in Paris for 4 years) and I won’t sing unless it’s with my daughters. I’ve started thinking about taking lessons in both to help overcome the control those negative labels have had on my life… But you have me thinking about all the other not so obvious areas I’ve been living in fear. Thanks for this powerful call, Helen!

    • Helen Burns Helene Burns says:

      Thanks for sharing Annie… I trust you find the strength to sing loudly wherever you want to and speak French boldly and confidently! I so appreciate hearing from you today! xx

  3. Oh the sting of words and the effect they can have on us for years. But the truth always sets us free. We must remember to tell ourselves the truth.
    I was told by a friend that I was horrible at math. Yet anytime he has a math problem he asks me. Go figure. Obviously I am smarter at math than he is.

    • Helen Burns Helene Burns says:

      Truth is the key… and the only truth we can trust completely is God’s truth. I am forever grateful for the wonder of every one of His liberating promises. xx

  4. Jodell Halliger says:

    Oh my, this rings true for me. It’s been 6 years since God took my husband home and I truly believe I have failed at everything I’ve done since….

    • Helen Burns Helene Burns says:

      I am so sorry to hear of this difficult and heartbreaking journey that you have been on Jodell. I pray that you truly discover and experience the wonder of discovering the TRUTH… the way God loves and see you. xx

  5. Sandy Hay says:

    Oh Helen….I could have written most of this. An English teacher, 10th grade, told me ,”You write so much but say so little.” He may have meant it as constructive criticism but that’s not how I took. it. I allowed that moment to shut me down and I wouldn’t say anything in class EVER unless I was certain my answer was correct. This haunted me for decades. I can still remember the day I read a letter out loud that I’d written . I remember smiling and saying to myself, “That’s good.” And then I walked through that open door. Thank you Helen for leading us by showing us how God has changed you and has restored what the cankerworm has eaten 🙂

    • Helen Burns Helene Burns says:

      I am so glad you walked through that open door Sandy. Your words are encouraging and bless me and others immensely. Thank you xx

  6. Thank you for sharing your kitchen table break through, Helen, and for doing the work of showing up so that God could meet you there and do the work of opening and freeing and Truth-giving.
    Have a great weekend!

    • Helen Burns Helene Burns says:

      Thanks Michele… you are the best encourager and I am so grateful for your voice of blessing. Sending love from beautiful Sydney, Australia this weekend xx

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