Take Time to Train

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S_Bronwyn

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

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Bronwyn Lea
Bronwyn Lea is a South-African born writer-mama, raising little people in California and raising eyebrows at bronlea.com. Fueled by grace, caffeine and laughter, she writes about the holy and hilarious in life, faith and family. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Bronwyn Lea
Bronwyn Lea
  • Zing! This was right on target for me. And the second time I’ve heard a similar parenting encouragement this week. Maybe I should slow down and pay attention…. 😉 Thank you so much, Bronwyn. Love your gentle, challenging words as always!

    • Thanks, Sarah. And of course, re-reading this this morning was just what I needed again… since in the month since I sent it in, of course I’ve reverted to a little too much over-parenting. Today I’m slowing down to take time to train again 🙂

  • Bev Murrill

    Oh gosh, we think we know… and then we don’t. The story of my life!

  • What a gift you are giving to your children. I have to remind myself sometimes (as I’m slogging through routines . . .) that the slow explaining, the “no, let’s do it this way,” is not for nothing. This is all a visible sign of an invisible reality.
    God cares about the details and our motives more than the number of check marks on my do-list at the end of the day. I need to read words like yours, Bronwyn, everywhere that I can find them! This is a tough assignment.

    • And it requires SO. MUCH. PATIENCE. to say those repeated “no, let’s do it this way!” With you in the tough assignment…

  • I love this reminder, Bronwyn. For me, I think I train, but often I lack the long view that one-time explanations won’t yield instant results. If I have to explain things twenty or 100 times, it’s okay, it’s natural, it’s part of shepherding young kids who have busy minds and fumbling fingers. If I expect training, sometimes, to go slow, I am less short with my kids, and my words are more attractive to them–a double win 🙂

    • So true: setting realistic expectations as a parent (for example, that it may take FOUR HUNDRED REPETITIONS before you are “heard”) does seem to be a key to better contentment for children and grown-ups alike!

  • This is wise and so good. Thank you for the reminder, Bronwyn. I love how you tied it into our faith as well.

  • pastordt

    Love this, love this, love this. And boy, do I need it, too. Training requires slow, doesn’t it? Oh, yeah.