Last night, I took a walk with each of my three boys…separately. Note to self: I need to do this more often!
I took my almost two year old out first. He’s always the crazy, rambunctious wild child, and to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to having him unattached to a stroller. However, in the name of de-energizing him, we walked (and ran!) hand-in-hand around the block. I didn’t realize how many words he knew! I get the basic, daily repertoire at home, but on a street, I realized just how grown up my little man has become. He asks questions, waits for the answers, and speaks in sentences 4-5 words long! When did this happen? We had a lovely walk, pretending like we were dinosaurs (his idea) and collecting sticks.
Then it was Noah’s turn. Noah is my 4 year old who absolutely loves having brothers and a sister. In fact, he’s been asking me when we can have more kids. He never tires of playing with his older brother, and always tries to be just like him. Because of that, it’s hard to really tell what is going on in his little head and his heart. He’s such a laid back, carefree kid…and really funny! I laughed out loud, a good hard belly laugh, throughout our walk. Noah is still confused as to when it’s o.k. to smile and say hello back to strangers and when talking to them is strictly not allowed. We’re trying to teach him the delicate balance between stranger danger and polite behavior…erring on the side of safety : ) We were reviewing our safety rules when he said “And I know it’s not o.k. to take candy from strangers.” To which I replied, “Very good Noah.” Pause. “Yeah, because candy is not healthy. We can only take fruit from strangers.” Ugh! We took another spin around the block to clear that one up!
I cherish my talks with my oldest. He is my deep well. He often says things to me that I have to chew on for a while. Last night was no different. He asked me what perseverance was. It’s always difficult for me to explain things simplistically that I find so complex. I told him it was working really hard at something and not giving up, even though it’s difficult. He kept giving me examples of things that he thought emulated perseverance, but he just wasn’t getting it. A couple of weeks ago, we were watching the Olympic swimming trials. My boys were mesmerized by how fast these men and women could swim, and my husband told them all about how long and hard they had to train. I reminded Micah of those athletes and told him that they have persevered over injuries, exhaustion, and their own thoughts that they can’t be the best. “Oh,” he said, “so if you persevere, you should look tired afterwards…and be out of breath.” Hmmm. I told him that not all situations require physical exhaustion, but in a way he’s right.
I don’t think I paid much attention to the character trait of perseverance. I always thought of myself as persevering through anything that I didn’t want to do…like disciplining and training children day in and day out! But just making it through the day is not persevering. I think of the Olympic athletes that I can’t wait to watch and I ponder what their days are like. They endure hours of grueling, physical training. They make sure they have fueled themselves correctly, resting and eating right. They wake up early, tired and sore, to do it all over again, and try to do it better than before. They do this day after day, for years.
James 1:2-4 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
It doesn’t say begrudgingly make it through the day. And notice that enduring the daily trials is not in itself perseverance, but is our steady, faithful, joyful endurance which develops perseverance. And what’s our goal? Not a gold medal…as wonderful as that may be. Rather, we will be made whole and complete, mature…not lacking anything.
We make mistakes, we fail, but we keep on going. I often get discouraged and tired. But even then, I am thankful for what challenges I’ve been given. After I had my sweet baby Emma, I went to my dr.’s office for my 6 week checkup. As I was flipping through a magazine, a mom walked in with her severely handicapped daughter. She was checking in for her daughter’s exam. It never occurred to me that these poor girls were still girls and had feminine issues. This young woman was strapped into a wheelchair and couldn’t speak, only grunt and squeal. I overheard that she was 17 years old. For seventeen years this mom had been responding to the grunts and squeals. For 17 years, she was pushing her daughter in a chair, spoon feeding her, and from what I overheard, changing her diaper. It was then that the P&G commercial came one…the one that shows all the moms of the Olympic athletes and what they’ve sacrificed to get their kids to the Olympics. At the end it said “thank you mom.”
Maybe it was just hormones, but I fought back tears really hard. This poor mom sitting beside me had sacrificed much more for her daughter, arguably, and would never hear “thank you mom” from her. This is how I know that God is very real and active. I didn’t know this woman. She could have been cursing God under her breath…but I doubt it. She was gentle and patient and kind. There was something different about her. I know that she must have something inside of her driving her on toward a goal other than a high school graduation, a wedding, or a corner office for her child. She looked as though she had 17 years of trials and maybe what I was looking at was a woman who was persevering, becoming complete and mature. If that is what it looks like, I want it. To me, she was an Olympic mom.
I’m glad I take the time to listen to my kids…I need to do it more. Now I know my Sam can pretend to be a dinosaur, I corrected an important safety rule with my Noah, and my Micah made me really think hard about my heart attitude about my life challenges and what all these challenges are really leading us all to.