Me: “Son, come lay down so I can put your diaper on!”
Me: “Does daddy need to come get you?”
Me: *Grabs son, lays him on the floor* “Hold still, buddy.”
Son: *Wiggles, slips hold, and vanishes down the hall*
Me: *Trying desperately not to lose my mind*
I’ll admit, I’ve never been the most patient person. The new Apple Watch has me completely on edge because I want one. Do I need it? Heck no! Can I afford it? Nope. But do I want it? You better believe it! My family makes fun of me for being the guy who buys the latest iPhone simply because it is new.
Ever hear the phrase, “Patience is a virtue”? Well, when Apple has their events, I have no virtue. When my son refuses a diaper (or clothing, or getting strapped into his car seat, or anything I need him to do right away), I have no virtue. Quite honestly, patience has become a fleeting hope as I watch that naked bum run down the hall. Sayonara virtue!
The fact is, the hardest task a person can take on is having kids. Shaping a child’s growing personality while honoring and respecting who they are is like trying to mold clay that will not stay on the wheel. That growing personality seems to rarely follow instruction, causing me to react in all kinds of ways, some of which, I’m ashamed to say, are a complete fail. You know what? I can handle failure, but only if it leads to some growth.
After all, I can only grow when I understand my failures and work towards moving beyond them, which of course requires discipline. I have played piano for nearly twenty-three years now. Developing my skill as a classical pianist required discipline. When I was a teenager, my natural talent was enough to impress just about anybody. Studying classical piano in college completely flipped that talent on its head, and I quickly learned that it means nothing unless I have the discipline to develop my areas of weakness.
Being a Christian, husband, and father requires the same discipline. Unlike my failures as a musician, failure in this capacity negatively affects my ministry, family, and even the image of Christ. Losing my patience with my son might affect him for the rest of his life. Heck, just the other day when he refused to stay in bed, I sternly told him, “Son, get back in bed and stay there.” To my ears, I wasn’t mad, just stern. He cried and crawled back into bed. Still crying a few minutes later, my wife went in to check on him, and he told her, “Daddy said get in bed.” It seriously broke his heart!
Improving myself is really difficult. It’s not like my joy over technology (such as developing the face of this blog) or honing my skill at the piano. I geek out over that stuff, and even when I struggle to improve, I still enjoy the experience itself (except for when I break this site’s code . . . that’s a bad day).
Working through my failures is painful. Struggling with patience may not seem like a big deal to most. We’ve even taken the liberty of renaming it to “anticipation” (as in, I don’t struggle with patiently waiting for the Apple Watch; I anticipate its arrival). Admitting our failures is the first step to overcoming them.
When we build on our failures, slowly growing from our mistakes, we become something deeper and more profound, which may influence others toward their own improvement. Imagine what my son sees when I patiently walk him through how to stay in bed and react with amusement rather than frustration when he won’t hold still for his diaper.
Lest we think this struggle is unique to ourselves, Paul wrote about his own failures during the founding of Christianity, saying, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). Despite his amazing spiritual conversion, he struggled with failure. Thankfully, Paul provides us with a solution: “But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10).
It is Christ within us who takes our failures and turns them into spirits that are alive. He transforms my failure to be patient into a moment of learning that I pass on to my son. May your failures be turned into living spirits, moments of learning that you can pass on.