Patience

Making soup in the morning to cook all day in the crockpot, my youngest son sidles up to me to cook alongside. Taking a deep breath, I remind myself that it is good for him to show enthusiasm to learn this new skill, and resign myself to the longer time it will take to complete my task.

Patiently, I teach him how to safely peel and chop the carrots, celery, and onion. Resisting the urge to take over and complete the job for him, I show him how to use the back of the knife instead of the blade to scrape the veggies off the cutting board into the pot. We take the time to smell each herb and spice before adding it, and discuss each step as we proceed. Finally, we set the lid on the pot and the lesson is complete. Glancing at the clock, I notice an hour has passed. One hour to peel and chop 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, and 1 onion…a job I would have finished in 15 minutes.

Sometimes when I have the opportunity to slow down to a snail’s pace in order to come alongside a child who is learning, I am reminded. Reminded of my own Heavenly Father’s patience as he comes alongside me as I learn. I make mistakes, and he gives me additional chances to try again, day after day. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22).

Everything is Hard Until it’s Easy

Each of our four sons played soccer their kindergarten year, and my husband was purposefully their first coach. He always taught them one important lesson in that first season: everything is hard until it’s easy. In other words, practice, practice, practice. This admonition to work at what does not necessarily come naturally (until it is no longer work) extends beyond the realm of sports, however.

When first married, it did not take long for us to realize that there were certain skills that my new husband was better at than me, and vice-versa. In the matter of spiritual practices it became quickly apparent that I was stronger in the area of prayer while he was more disciplined in his Bible reading.

Fast forward 26 years and I have to say that while he has grown in prayer, it has been a constant start and stop struggle for me to become a more consistent Bible reader. I finally realize that it is because I have not practiced the above mantra of keeping at it during the hard times. My problem is that I continually give up too quickly. But, I am learning something from one of our boys.

Our third son is an avid soccer player. One summer he spent an afternoon in the back yard practicing juggling a soccer ball in the air with his foot. When he started, he could only juggle the ball one or two times before it would hit the ground. Several minutes of effort later, he had increased his juggling to 3, 4, and then 6 times without it falling. But, as several more moments of effort went by, frustration began to set in. He was no longer seeing progress, and often fell back to only 2 or 3 juggles before losing control.

Here came the gentle reminder: “Everything is hard before it’s easy.” Over and over again, the ball was picked up, and the count would begin anew. Tears were shed. Tears of disappointment at his slow progress. Tears of anger as the ball was kicked savagely against the fence in frustration. All day long, and into the days and weeks ahead, he labored to improve his score; bouncing, and bouncing that ball on that foot, over and over and over again, ad naseum.

Gradually, his efforts were rewarded with incremental progress. Currently, his foot juggling record is at the impressive number of 20. The amount of effort required today to achieve this feat is minimal. The tears and sweat and agonizing periods of practice are but a faint memory. What once was hard, has now become easy.

So it is with spiritual disciplines as well. I realize now that in order to become more practiced in being a consistent Bible reader, I must have the same tenacity about it that my son did with his soccer juggling. When a habit becomes hard to maintain, rather than giving up, I must push through and do it with vigor and determination to stick with it rather than surrendering to complacency.

I encourage you to join me by choosing a spiritual discipline that you want to get better at (such as daily bible reading, or prayer) and begin to practice it today. But, don’t give up when it is hard to continue. Pick it up, and begin again. Remember, everything is hard until it’s easy.

 

Parents Are Children Too

Parenting continues to teach me new things about God and my relationship with him.

When one of our sons are absent from us for an extended period, I crave to hear from him, to know how he is doing, to be made privy to his thoughts and actions. I wish to connect to him in any way to bridge our physical distance.

My yearning to hear from my child increases the longer the silence extends. I hunger to hear the intimate details about his life. I wonder how he is doing, where he is going, and with whom? How thrilled I am when he confides in me. I dream with him for the future as I am privileged to learn about his inner thoughts, hopes, and desires. I grieve with him as I learn of his disappointments and heartaches. Good or bad, as a parent, I desire to be a constant presence in my children’s lives.

And, then, I realize…my Heavenly Father desires the same connection with me. How saddened he must be when time goes by without a prayerful word from me, his child. How he must long for me to share my intimate thoughts, hopes, dreams, and desires with him. My disappointments, heartaches, and tears do not go by unnoticed, or uncared for, by God.

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle.You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8

Just as I long to hear from my own children, God desires connection and communication from his children as well.

Teach me to be more consistent in my communication with you, Father.