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.