This summer I am teaching my daughter how to ride a bike without training wheels. If this sounds familiar, it’s because I taught her last summer as well. We didn’t quite get there the first time around, despite my high hopes. I had imagined her riding with her brothers down the cul-de-sac, finally able to keep up with the other kids in the neighborhood. I dreamed of taking bike rides as a family with everyone on their own bicycle. But that didn’t happen. Try as she might, she just couldn’t get her balance right and pedal on her own.
And so here we are, another summer trying to master the art of bike riding. My daughter has gotten better; she can now ride about 10 feet on her own before she fearfully steers off into the grass. Steering for any other reason is a skill she has yet to master. I get frustrated and struggle to remain calm every time she heads for the safety of the lawn instead of staying on the driveway. But she is trying. Little by little, she is determined to get there.
Sometimes as I’m making yet another trip down the driveway holding her seat, I wonder how many more times it will take. What is it that is holding her back from finally getting it? A part of me knows that she will inevitably learn someday, but I can’t help but think, “What if she doesn’t? What if she stops trying and decides it’s not worth it, and we never move past this stage?”
Progress is a difficult thing. It doesn’t always happen at the rate we want it to. Progress is complicated because sometimes we focus so much on how other people need to change that we don’t see what we need to change in ourselves. It’s easy to pinpoint all the things my daughter needs to do differently to improve her riding, but have I examined what I could change when I work with her? Perhaps it’s not so great learning from a teacher who gets frustrated so quickly. I bet I’d be nervous too if I wondered whether my mom was going to throw in the towel every time I messed up.
When we are bystanders to progress, the road to change can look wide and smooth. But when we are participants, the path often seems narrow and winding. There are twists and turns along the way that catch us off guard. There are obstacles that need to be navigated. Participating in progress is both hard and tiring.
I find myself leaning on God when I’m frustrated with the pace of progress. When I focus on God, I can find my next steps on the complicated road of progress. The journey may be long and hard, but I find comfort knowing that God is with me as I try to navigate the path.
I’ve learned you can never give up on progress though. Last summer my oldest son was on the dive team. It was a challenge. Each week he performed three dives for a score. Most weeks, he could only complete one correctly. Each week I hoped he would master another dive. Each week he would complete only one. I was ready for him to be done with the dive team. I thought progress was impossible. Forget the fact that there was no way I could complete any of the dives he was attempting. Yet I knew exactly what he needed to do, if only he would listen to me. But he wouldn’t.
So you can imagine my surprise when this summer, he began completing each dive beautifully. Progress snuck up on me. Just when I was ready to give up on it, progress proved me wrong. Progress reminded me that things aren’t over yet. The path might be narrow and winding, but it moves forward. The journey might be slow, but progress marches on.
So if you find yourself frustrated about the pace of progress, don’t give up. It’s not over yet. Understand that God has not abandoned you. If you are feeling overwhelmed and not sure what to do to bring change, ask God to show you. Do not lose hope. You can make a difference. The pace of progress might be slow, but it would be slower without you.