This morning London wrote her numbers from 1 to 100. She entered each one into a grid, a grid that would, in theory, open her eyes to the patterns in numbers and eventually lead her to count by tens and multiply. It’s something she knows how to do, but not exactly in that way.
It took her longer than I expected.
When she finished she’d written the correct number in each square, so I praised her. But I also pointed out the numbers she’d written backward, urging her to go back over her work and write them the correct way.
Because she’d taken so long to write the numbers in the first place, she (as my sister-in-law would say) literally could not. She exploded into quick, messy tears.
I said, “London, it’s okay. You’re learning.”
But I was no comfort. She looked at me and said, through sobs, “Getting everything wrong is not easy.” [More sobs.] “I like getting it right.”
She put her head on the table. I ran my fingers through her hair while her tears dripped through the holes in the tabletop and fell on my feet.
And I didn’t say a word.
I wasn’t about to argue. Getting everything wrong is hard.
Lately I’ve been feeling a lot like London. I’ve had some low days in my battle for a healthy mind and heart. I know what I should do. I even know how to do it. But the execution… Getting out of the chair, putting down the phone, picking up the sponge and turning on the water, being patient, saying kind words, or (harder still) opening the Bible sitting on the table two feet from my elbow—sometimes every step toward right-living can seem like a marathon. And that’s just the little stuff…
If every small step takes all I have and if every day requires hundreds of steps and a dozen leaps, well, I literally can’t even either.
I am bound to get a lot wrong. And I like getting it right.
Today, watching London and seeing myself so clearly in her struggle, I realized something.
You see, as the mom, I didn’t care so much about London’s mistakes. Not nearly as much as she did, that’s for sure. I understood that she was learning and growing.
Growing means doing more than we know how to do. It means stepping into circumstances we don’t understand and can’t figure out. Growth happens, not when we already know all the answers, but when we struggle with problem after problem, and, by the end, get it right.
Growing is painful. [I remember one summer when my brother grew four inches in three months. He slept for half of every day (or more), and complained every waking hour.] And like growing tall is hard on the body, growing in love, grace (you name it) is hard on the heart. Mostly because when you’re growing, you’re not yet.
But growing is also progress. When we’re growing, we’re on the cusp. We’re almost…
One of the most exciting and most exhausting things about being a Christian is the perpetual state of growth within which we live. We are “always being given over to death,” “being made holy,” “being built into a spiritual house,” and “”being transformed.” We are always almost and always not yet.
Like a half-full, half-empty glass.
Feeling half-empty and looking for some help, I stumbled across these words from the apostle Paul tonight:
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
At first glance, I looked at those words and saw yet another reminder that, despite the incredible gift of change found in Christ Jesus, I wasn’t finished yet, that I wouldn’t be finished until the day of Christ’s return.
But then I looked closer, turning the words over in my head, and I saw something else. I saw Christ finishing the work. Not me. I saw Christ “carrying” the load of growth and transformation. I saw Christ lifting a burden off my tired shoulders, leading me into something I could never do on my own.
I thought of London, burdened by all the things she didn’t know, forgetting that her patient mother stood nearby, thrilled with her progress and eager to teach.
I imagine that’s God, standing beside me as I cry, running His hand through my hair, not disappointed in my failures, failures He quickly forgave, but rather excited by my progress and eager to help me grow.