It’s the story of the tortoise and the hare, isn’t it?
In my hurry to get things done, I sometimes find myself taking longer—much longer—than those who act thoughtfully and methodically. I “quickly” check my email on my phone, but since I can’t reply in detail, I leave it for later, when I’m at my computer, a choice that means I’ll deal with the same email multiple times, rather than just once. “More haste, less speed,” as my mom used to say.
Email is the least of my issues. When it comes to time, I am so often “penny-wise and pound-foolish”: good at shaving off a second or two here and there in the short term, but making poor time investments over the long haul.
I lingered in my friend’s kitchen a while ago, allowing my children to stall putting on their shoes so I could soak up a few minutes of stolen adult conversation before getting my minivan-face on again. My friend diced vegetables and drizzled them with olive oil: an extravagance of attention in a world of instant food. Above her stove, my eyes were drawn to the laminated card where she recorded some of the pithy parenting tips from a class we had taken a few years prior. One caught my attention:
Take Time To Train.
Take the time to teach your child to do something, step by step, was the advice. Give them the gift of independence and of being able to contribute to the family’s well-being. It takes time, she acknowledged, but is an investment for both parent and child.
I winced, thinking of the many things I still do for my three-year-old, which his siblings could do when they were two. I had spent time training the older ones, but—because it just takes too long—was still dressing my youngest, buckling him into his seat belt, and helping him put on shoes long past the stage where he was willing and ready to take on that responsibility.
Instead, I bark instructions as him—get dressed!—and then step in impatiently to do the job for him when he falters, forgetting it takes time to learn to sit down and find the right holes in his shorts. There are three openings in a pair of shorts. Which two are for legs? And how would he know?
The past weeks have been painstakingly slow: I need an extra five minutes to let him figure out how to slip the buckle into the car seat. I need an extra 15 minutes of dinner prep time to show my children how to slice vegetables safely so they can “help” with the cooking.
But, a month later, my eldest can slice and dice and present a salad worthy of a central place at the dinner table. All of a sudden, my prep time for salads has dropped to zero.
And I wonder: how often do I just issue instructions about the Christian life, rather than train them in the way they should go, as Proverbs 22:6 commands?
Those whom we hope to shape and influence for Christ need more than information, they need spiritual formation, a process which requires time, attention, leaning in, making mistakes and then learning from the correction.
I want to be someone who doesn’t just speak of grace, but takes the time to work alongside others in sowing it in real time, with real sweat and tears.
I want to be someone who doesn’t just tell my children to forgive, but takes the time to train them by example: naming my faults, asking for their forgiveness, doing more than brushing off slights, but doing the hard work of acknowledgement and reconciliation before them.
I want to be someone who does more than tell people the Christian life has a bearing on ethics. I long to take time to listen to the raw stories of why we make the choices we do, and offer grace and the gospel to the deeper needs which we seek to fill with all that is not-God. It is, after all, grace that appeared and teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness. —Titus 2:12
For I know growth is a slow process: an unfurling of Christ-in-me, day by day. There is no fast track to godliness, and no speedway to maturity: not for me, my children, or any of those I long to see fully formed and radiant in Christ.
We dare not leave those we love immature while we bark orders from the sidelines. We cannot continue to do it all for them, frustrated they still haven’t gotten it, and exhausted by the burden of doing-for-others when it is we who have failed them by not taking the time to train.
Let us be women who take the time to train. Yes, it’s slow. But in God’s mysterious upside-down Kingdom, it remains the fastest way to grow.
Image credit: Steven Jackson