Have you ever watched an infant play? I’ve had the joy and fascination of watching my little niece play these past couple of months: learning to lift her head, to roll over, to sit up on her own, to lean and reach for her most beloved toy, to push her self back up.
At first the learning does not seem like learning at all: the head flails, she gets stuck on her arm mid-roll, she topples over backward, or she does a face-plant into the beloved toy without the muscle strength to push herself back up. This phase seems more like failure, than learning.
But then one day, this phase gives way to the next. The muscles in her neck gain strength and the flailing stops. One day mid-roll she lifts the leg just right giving her the momentum she needs to pop over the “stuck” arm and complete the turn. One day leaning forward a bit too far, she stops her self and zips back to the upright position (the muscles pulling her back as if she is a little marionette attached to invisible strings) and she tries again. Of course, there is still some trial and error. Not every roll is successful and not every lean has a smooth recovery. Yet, she has tasted success and continues to have more of it. “Yes, this is what learning should look like”, we say to ourselves.
And then, just days later, it seems as if she’s known how to do these things all along: lift, sit, roll, lean, and reach. She moves on to new skills that will soon require baby proofing for a crawling toddler.
Some days I find myself a bit frustrated with the “pace” of my progress in Christ. Sometimes it feels like I’m flailing about and can’t keep my head on straight. Some days I find myself stuck on a particular struggle without the momentum to push past. And I’ve had a face-plant or two of my own, crashing face first into old habits or hurts.
But God has been reminding me that this is a valid phase of learning. One day the flailing will give way to a new strength, my being stuck to a new freedom in Christ, the face-plants to a new eye for what to avoid and how to avoid it.
Children have the patience to learn. (Though perhaps they are lacking patience for other things like car rides and grocery checkout lines.) They don’t know failure as failure (adults teach them that!); it is simply a phase of their learning. They have loving parents to pick them up, dust them off, wipe their tears . . . and cheer them on.
Today, may we all have faith and patience like a child. May we let our failures become phase-one of our learning and give way to the growth we long for. And may we allow our heavenly Father to pick us up, wipe our tears . . . and cheer us on.