Last night, I took a walk with each of my three boys…separately. Note to self: I need to do this more often! Albeit important, taking so much time at the end of my day is hard to do when I have 4 under the age of 5. It takes a lot of gusto on my part!
I took my almost two year old out first. He has always been our crazy, rambunctious, wild child. 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 am familiar with his basic, daily repertoire, but when we were one-on-one, 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 in 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 is o.k. to smile and say hello back to strangers and when talking to strangers 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, of course. On our walk, he and I 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! By this point, I was winded, but I promised to take my oldest on his special walk with mommy.
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 that something may be 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 self-doubt. “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 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.”
Scripture doesn't say to begrudgingly make it through the day. And notice that enduring the daily trials is not in itself perseverance, but instead, our steady, faithful, joyful endurance 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. Instead of just making it through the day now, I'm ready to meet the day's challenges better than I had the day before. I want to be found faithful so that I will be whole and complete. Only then will I be satisfied...not lacking anything.
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 and what perseverance really looks like.