I’ve worked with young children for years, and I never cease to be amazed at their hunger for life, joy of discovery, and perseverance. Yes, perseverance. That may come as a new thought, considering small children’s notoriously short attention spans. (Any mother who has tried to get her toddler to sit still long enough to finish a meal can tell you about that.) There are moments in every young child’s life, though, when the inborn urge for development drives the child to learn a new skill, such as picking up a small object with chubby little fingers, or crawling, or walking. These new skills require a huge amount of concentration and effort on the part of the child and a great deal of time compared to his or her short life up to that point. They also put physical demands on muscles that are just beginning to learn coordination and are barely strong enough to sustain the child’s weight.
When I recently moved to a new country, I went through a difficult time of adjustment. My friends and co-workers in my former situation had become like family. It hurt to leave them, and I especially missed teaching and helping to care for their kids. I tried my hand at new aspects of our volunteer work, but felt I wasn’t good at any of them. At one point, for example, I channeled my energy into a toy-and-book drive for needy children, but when it was slow taking off, I grew discouraged and felt like giving up.
One day I was caring for a co-worker’s baby, Rafael. For as long as I had known him, Rafael had been trying to crawl. He would start by pushing himself up on shaky arms and eventually get up on all fours, but then he would get stuck. This went on for weeks. He would push himself up and rock back and forth on his pudgy hands and knees, but not make any forward progress. If a toy was just out of his reach, no matter how much he rocked on all fours or wiggled on his belly, he wouldn’t get any closer. He sometimes managed to scoot himself backwards, but that only moved him further from his goal. This day, after trying his hardest, he looked at me with “Pick me up!” written in frustration on his little features.
I could sympathize, as I felt just as frustrated in my new situation. I knew, though, that all that struggling was strengthening his muscles and teaching him about his body. So I picked him up and cuddled and encouraged him a bit, but then put him back on the floor to try again. He would have to learn to crawl on his own; I couldn’t do it for him. Eventually he would grow stronger and get the hang of it.
Suddenly I realized how much like Rafael I was. I’d been struggling, trying to learn new jobs, a new language, and about a new culture, and my natural reaction had been to look up to Jesus and say “Pick me up! Save me from this!” But He knows that this time of learning, difficult as it may be, will make me stronger. So even though His love is always there to cheer me on, I have to do the work. I have to persevere.
That gave me a new outlook on my situation. If Rafael can keep it up, then I will too! And when I grow weary of trying or get frustrated from seemingly futile effort, I’ll go to Jesus for love, encouragement, and the strength to keep learning the lessons life brings my way.
Rafael is now happily crawling and starting to pull himself up to stand. I’m also taking baby steps in learning new skills and broadening my horizons. I know we’ll both be up and running before long, if we just keep trying.
Excerpted from Activated magazine. Used with permission.