Any mother who’s tried to get her toddler to sit still long enough to finish a meal can tell you about children’s short attention spans, but there are also moments when they’re driven 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—and a great deal of time, compared to the child’s short life up to that point. They also put 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. I threw myself into volunteer work, but I felt I wasn’t very good at it. For example, I channeled my energy into a toy-and-book drive for needy families, but when it was slow in taking off, I grew discouraged and felt like giving up.
One day I was playing with a coworker’s baby, Rafael, who was trying to crawl. He’d start by pushing himself up on shaky arms and eventually get up on all fours, but then he’d get stuck. No matter how much he rocked or wiggled, he couldn’t get any closer to a toy just out of his reach. He did manage to scoot himself backwards, but that only moved him farther from his goal. Eventually, 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 encouraged him a bit, but then put him back on the floor to try again. He’d have to learn to crawl on his own; I couldn’t do it for him.
Suddenly I realized how like Rafael I was. I’d been struggling, trying to fit into a new job, pick up a new language, and familiarize myself with 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. Even though His love is always there to cheer me on, I have to do the work. I have to persevere. If Rafael could keep it up, so could I!
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.