Originally published Sunday, 05 January 2014.
At some point during the first 5-10 years of my life, I realized that I wasn't great at everything I tried. Previous to this, I existed in the ideal world of a child who believed everything she touched turned to gold, because that's just the way the universe works when you're little. Then one day we realize this isn't true. My strategy became "don't do it unless you're good at it from the start." You would often find me sitting out from sports, not because I didn't like them, but I wasn't willing to let the other kids see me struggle to learn something - especially something they were already good at. Piano...soccer...a couple of short-term high school jobs (and by short-term, I mean I basically stayed just long enough to get trained before quitting)...the time it took to develop a difficult skill or routine asked more of my comfort level than I was willing to submit to. So I tried a lot of things, and only stuck with the things I picked up quickly. My life was arranged so that I could succeed in the places it was easy for me to succeed in...swerving around possible obstacles that might challenge my "I'm good at everything" mentality.
Adulthood began to drill some holes in my self-preservation philosophy. Motherhood blew it out of the water.
In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis imagines a conversation between two demons set on distracting and destroying a specific man. They discuss their strategy for targeting various areas of his life and in doing so, they refer to the burnout and disillusionment people experience when they realize how difficult new things actually are...
"[God] allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavour. It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by Stories from the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing."
When the romanticized glory fades and the hard work begins, it's easy to say "never mind, that's not what I signed up for."
My son loves the idea of helping me cook. He straps on his apron (also known as a dish rag wrapped around his waist) and climbs up on a stool to see across the counter. He's typically done after a few short minutes of measuring and sorting ingredients. "Never mind mommy! I don't want to," I'll hear as he runs back to his room. I'm no different.
It's the process that changes us...and we avoid it. We back down because of frustration, fear, insecurity and overall disappointed that it just isn't what we expected. This year I'm saying "yes" to a few new things and I'm embracing the work it will take to accomplish them. As of yesterday, there's a piano sitting in my living room. It literally takes up half the wall. To not learn to play it at this point would be absurd. This winter, I will learn to play an instrument and maybe I'll actually have something to contribute to my musician-husband's conversations about music theory. In the spring, I'm registering for a race. And next fall, I'm joining a club soccer team. Whether or not anyone will pass me the ball has yet to be determined.
Will you join me? Is there a skill you will commit yourself to developing? Will this be the year you start taking the prerequisites you need to apply for that program? Are you ready to put in the work and discipline to save for the trip you keep dreaming about? What might God have for you in the process? For simplicity's sake, let's break this up into seasons. Maybe you have four goals, one for each season. Maybe you have one very large goal and each season represents a new step towards it. What are you going to do? What has stopped you short in the past? What will be different in 2014? Post your thoughts and plans in the comments below. Invite friends to join. Make a plan and be intentional.
I'll keep you updated on how it's going over here. On the days I'm ready to throw this big wooden box in the trash, I'll come back to this space to remind myself why I wanted this is to begin with. And then I'll push myself back into the work of what Lewis called, "the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing."