When Mayim Bialik stated on her blog today that her youngest son just started talking about 9 months ago I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It’s nice to hear from another mother that their child was a little slow when it comes to speech. No one we know is experiencing this and sometimes it feels like we’re alone. For most people communication comes easily. For my son it’s a different story. He seems to have a little difficulty processing words and it’s coming for him but it takes time. He goes to speech therapy and we do drills and fun games at home to encourage him to put his words together and find ways of communicating that work for him. I read to him every day. We practice writing words, talking on walks and I am always looking for new ways to encourage him to grow. It’s work, but good work. When he succeeds and has a breakthrough we all do a little dance.
It has been wonderful to watch him grow and change but it can be tough to see him struggle. This is part of the gift of being a parent. The good comes with the not so good. Not everything is easy or perfect but it’s life and it’s ours. In watching him break down the english language I’ve been able to see how he thinks, discover things that are of great importance to him (I’m looking at you Curious George) and connect with him as we work together to make all of his wonderful thoughts come out in a new way.
My Mom and I recently had a conversation about parenting and she said sometimes it would be so hard for her when we would come home from school feeling wronged, demanding to know if we acted/responded/behaved in a way we were certain was untrue. She said sometimes she’d be thinking ‘Yes you do that all the time’ but would have to find an appropriate loving way to correct and encourage us as we grew. Struggling, changing and growing is part of the human condition. I’m 33 and I still struggle. I suspect I will struggle until I die and I don’t think this is a bad thing. Some of the greatest struggles of my life have helped to define me as a person. Some of those moments that seem the darkest are where I met God.
The struggle is what makes us. It can break us of course if we let it. If we allow the tough stuff to derail us, if we focus so much on the negative that we forget what we are fighting for we will not survive. In my life I’ve seen how often struggle and working through it has helped me to see things in a new way, forced creative thinking and shown me who really is important to me in my life. Struggle, pain, change and growth are vital in moving us along life’s path. These are essential and my son as young as he is is learning that work, no matter how hard it is pays off. When he succeeds and has a breakthrough the joy on his face and excitement he feels is contagious. It really helps me to realize how important it is to never give up, to always keep fighting.
This desire to push through seems to get lost somewhere between the age of 3 and 33 it seems. As we get older, struggles seem that much harder to push through. Maybe it’s that they often get tougher to deal with. We see death and loss. We experience injustice and intolerance. We know how difficult the world can be for some and we wonder how we can make a difference. This is especially true in the church right now. We’re watching churches close. Others struggle financially and spiritually. There is a sense that the end is coming and hope seems to be present but is fading. We are struggling and the struggle at times seems insurmountable. Sometimes in church I feel like I’m alone in a room of those who are living deep in the struggle and cannot see the light. The negativity can be suffocating and I feel the need to break free, escape for a bit and breathe in some fresh air.
Even the good churches experience moments of suffocating darkness. It can be maddening to say to a person, ‘Isn’t it great how many people came out today?’ and hear the response ‘No one comes to church anymore. It isn’t like it used to be.’. The negativity and focus on that which has been lost does not help propel us into the future. We need to stop dwelling on that which is gone and start focussing on our successes, no matter how small they may seem. Our struggle is understood by the one who came to save. The Spirit is with us, guiding us so we will make it through. Change has come, our lives are different but God is constant and supporting. We need to look for the light and stop living in darkness.
I had Sunday off this week as I attended a cousin’s wedding out of town this weekend and I have the next few Sundays off for similar reasons. There is a celebration to attend in honor of my Dad’s 20th anniversary of his ordination and I am awaiting the arrival of my very first niece. Good things are on the horizon and I’m looking forward to celebrating. I can’t help but admit that I’m a little glad to have a break from the church (not worship mind you). It’s nice to not be the one fielding questions and dealing with anxiety. Ministry is a tough place to be at times and it’s necessary to step out, take a breath and look for the light when darkness surrounds you.
I know we are struggling as a denomination and I’m not about to abandon ship. I told a friend yesterday I’ll go down fighting if necessary but I want to do so with a committed group of individuals who see the struggle as something to work through, not something to surrender to. My son has shown me that. In watching him refuse to give up, in seeing his determination to conquer something that is challenging for him I’ve seen what it means to be passionately committed to a cause. I want to fight like he fights. I want to be that determined. I hope there are others who feel this way. We have a good thing, the greatest of things. We have the Gospel, the Good News. It’s something worth sharing. It’s something worth fighting for and we cannot surrender to this time of struggle. We may need to find new ways of existing, of communicating with the world. Creative thinking is needed and perhaps we will change more than we might like but we cannot quit. The message is too important for that.