From the time we are a toddler, there are so many things we see that we want to do. We watch others and think it must be easy to do them and that we are ready. Little wonder we are shocked when we don’t automatically sort out how to ride our first tricycle or really can’t get the hang of our first skateboard. Our memory knows we seemed to have no problem learning to crawl or climb or walk but our memory doesn’t nudge us with how long it took and the steps to achieve it required practice to get it done. The goal to explore the world was so built into us that we kept at it.
Once those things were accomplished the world opened up one thing after another that looked like fun and not that hard, until we tried it. It didn’t work very well on the first try and maybe not the second or third. Some of us gave up and decided it wasn’t worth the time or potential injury to keep going. We didn’t have a clue that from toddler onward most anything we wanted to try to do would require the one thing we would not be excited about doing – practice. A lot of practice would be required if we were going to do it well or make it look as easy to others as it had to us before we started.
Catching a ball is naturally easier for some than others but to be the best catcher in the neighborhood no matter who throws the ball is another story. Hitting a ball thrown at us using a bat was even harder for most of us. Being able to handle a soccer ball with only our feet wasn’t as simple as we thought it would be either. Listening to the parents and coaches who were trying to help us sometimes made us wonder if we were the only ones who couldn’t quite get the knack of it. Would we always be the kid on the sidelines or on the bench? (Practice and more practice when we were lousy didn’t work well.)
And it wasn’t just about playing some kind of ball or managing to ride some kind of wheels. School was a place where we needed to practice just about everything from the time we arrived until the school day ended. Practice was needed to learn to write, read, count and how to use these to solve problems and answer questions.
If we were athletically inclined and more bent toward the arts, practice was required there as well if we expected to be able to glide across the dance floor or make beautiful music.
I was one of those who felt awkward with anything athletic, and self-consciousness didn’t help. My love of singing and music soon had me starting piano lessons when I entered third grade. I was eager to learn to play like my mother and cousin until I found myself sitting on a piano bench with a teacher who never smiled or made anything seem like fun. Correct fingering to play well wasn’t a practice I loved but I kept at it for a while until my mother realized I wasn’t going to progress very far and by sixth grade a saxophone was my instrument. Later it would be replaced by a typewriter when my mother was concerned I would get sick too often playing in a marching band at high school. (I am sure many of you have your own stories where practice was required and even if you loved what you wanted to learn, practice was NOT what you wanted to do.)
Most of us managed to learn enough or practice enough to move on from one grade to another looking forward to the end of school days and the hope that those dreaded practice sessions would come to an end. We had no idea that the need to practice something of some sort would be required of us all through adulthood. And why did we (do we) hate practice? Maybe because it means we need to discipline ourselves to some degree and lay down our preference to take the easy path of least resistance where we think little will be required of us. (Is that something humankind learned way back at the beginning – a dislike to reining in self and accepting discipline?) It just doesn’t come naturally for most of us. So, it is little wonder that memorizing scripture or taking our thoughts captive that require practice are things we put off doing or never do with as much excellence as we might.
By now we know (whether we admit it or not) that doing anything decently well requires discipline to practice the skill. And we still hate having to do it most of the time. But it is what is needed if we are to develop in our relational and spiritual lives. Setting aside time to commune with an unseen God in prayer and solitude to grow is one of those things we want to have happen and yet gets crowded out by all those other things we need or want to do that doesn’t require us to be still and quiet our hearts. And yet that is the very thing we were made for, and our soul needs to gain the sense of belonging and peace we long for.
“I believe our souls harbor a deep, nameless knowing we were created for something far better, something unshakably solid and enduring. That ‘knowing’ is what C.S. Lewis called our ‘lifelong nostalgia’ to be reunited with our Creator.
With ancient echoes of Eden whispering in our souls, we’ve been longing for belonging ever since. And with our sinful self-wills screaming for obedience, we’ve been trying to satisfy that longing every which way but God’s.”Sandra Wilson
As a believer, Christ is nudging me every day to come aside to be with Him. It’s not a harsh voice that calls to me but a gentle quiet voice. He calls us because He knows it is what we need to live in this world that is no longer Eden. Christ modeled it for us when He walked the earth.
“His was a quiet heart. We see Him move serenely through all the events of His life – when He was reviled, He did not revile in return. When He knew He would suffer many things and be killed in Jerusalem, He never deviated from His course. He had set His face like flint. He sat at supper with one who would deny Him and another who would betray Him, yet He was able to eat with them, willing even to wash their feet. Jesus in the unbroken intimacy of His Father’s love, kept a quiet heart.”Elisabeth Elliott
You may think it was easy for Him because He was Jesus. Reconsider and remember that He was fully human and experienced life as we do and yet took time apart to nurture unbroken intimacy with His Father. It sustained Him and it can sustain us as we walk through difficult things and the ever darkening and fearsome times that are growing in the world. He invites us to practice, knowing it will give us a quiet heart when the world has never been noisier.